I’ve blogged before about how Wendy and I limit the amount of media time that Tess and Tucker get, that we struggle with knowing how much time is too much or too little to be on the computer, watch television, play the Wii or poke around on the iTouch. Most people think that since both of us spend so much time of the computer that we’d naturally let them play all they want. But we don’t. In fact, I get the feeling we’re more restrictive than many parents, ironically. (Tess swears there’s only one other kid in her grade at school that doesn’t have a phone yet.)
When I mentioned in passing our 45-minutes-a-day on the computer policy during a recent presentation, I was seriously amazed at how many people came up afterwards (and even e-mailed me later) and asked about that. There was like a whole ‘lotta angst going on in terms of people wondering if their kids were getting too much screen time and how we came to the decision to limit our own kids. I had no answer for the first part, and I felt like I stumbled through the second part because to be honest, it’s a really complex equation that is going to be different for every kid, every set of parents. For us, I think it’s a combination of having two very energetic kids who love to physically play, a reaction to the struggle for balance in my own life, and an expectation that when we’re together as a family, we’re together as a family that interacts more often than not without media. Frankly, I don’t even like it when Tess plays the apps or listens to her iTouch for long periods in the car. But she (and Tucker) can read as much as they want, and they do. We always bring their books with them and we encourage that at every turn. (For some reason, my kids don’t get car sick when reading.) Is there a huge distinction? I don’t know. Books give us something to talk about. Mario on the iTouch? Notsomuch. And there are exceptions. Tess happens to really like Google SketchUp, and she can almost always get more time if she’s making something or exhibiting some creativity. All I know is that we, and I mean we, tend to push back against technology for our kids as much as we embrace it for ourselves. And that is ironic, I know, but that’s what we’re comfortable with right now when they are 9 and 11. As they get older, they’ll get more time, but I know that we’ll monitor what their doing and have lots of conversations about it. When they get ready to start creating and publishing in earnest, we’ll certainly help them if that’s what they want to do.
Now does that mean that isn’t perfectly ok for some other parents to make other, perhaps more liberal choices about their own kids media time? Absolutely not. To each his own, and I’m not suggesting to anyone how they parent their kids. I’m also not holding myself up as the poster child for fantastic parenting. (I could tell you stories.) All I know is that’s what we’re comfortable with right now, that the real cuts and scrapes they get in their physical worlds are more important than the virtual ones at this point, that we are always struggling with it, and that for today at least, I really like who my kids are shaping up to be. They’re creative, social, articulate, thoughtful and fun to be around. Most of the time. And I hope some of that, at least, comes from our parenting around technology and media in their lives.