Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Past Deadline: Too Much Screen Time

When you know what you should be doing versus reality.... Published Tuesday, March 10/09 in The Perth Courier.

Too much screen time

Maybe it’s a sign of spring accompanying the pungent aroma of doggie yech filling the air or maybe, like an allergy, I’m passing some sort of tolerance threshold. Whatever the reason, I am increasingly uncomfortable with the amount of screen time in my life.

When Groom-boy and I got married and moved into an apartment a kazillion years ago, I remember half-heartedly trying to convince him it would be a Really Great Idea to cancel cable. I’m sure I burbled enthusiastically about less time zoning out in front of the tube and more time going for long walks or reading books. What would we really be missing?

The other half of me figured I would go through serious Young & the Restless withdrawal, a show I had been watching more or less since birth. (Shh! Don’t tell!). Oh, and George Clooney was still on ER back then. Not only that, but Groom-boy and I were both reporters. We bonded over news. To this day you can count on us making an effort to drop what we’re doing so we can sit on the couch together and critique Lloyd Robertson at 11 p.m.

Suffice it to say, cable stayed.

These days Y&R gives way to Little Bear and Rolie Polie Olie, but that nightly dose of doom and gloom (did you hear the economy is dire?) is still a big part of my routine. Sad but true.

Yes, as I’ve mentioned before, we are some of “those” parents who let their kids watch what probably amounts to too much TV. Even though we monitor what they’re watching, it’s still time spent in front of a mindless flickering box instead of breathing fresh air, running, looking at interesting icicles or animal tracks, swimming, going to the library, playing a board game, doing crafts or reading books.

Then there’s the computer. Beyond being a big part of my livelihood, it represents additional miscellaneous screen time. For the kids it is continued staring at a flickering box with the added bonus of exercise for their wrist muscles and increased hand-eye coordination.

Uh huh.

Somehow I don’t think getting up from the couch and meandering away from the television only to plunk down in front of a computer game counts as exercise.

Okay, so I exaggerate a little.

I can’t remember where I saw it – either (surprise!) by e-mail or on a blog or on a website – but recently I watched a short video that demonstrated the eerie, glazed look kids (and probably adults) get when they play video games. We’re talking empty eyes and mouths hanging open, highlighted by that ghostly bluish light the screen emits. It made me feel a little ill. Why are we spending so many minutes, hours, days in front of these time-sucking appliances? It’s not as if we’re watching documentaries – and even then we should be experiencing life, not just watching it flicker by.

What is this technology getting us? Some argue computers, Blackberries and cell phones keep us more connected. Others say not. Do you e-mail, phone or visit in person? Which is the best way to experience all of the elements that make for good communication – not just the words, but the way they are spoken, the look in someone’s eye, the smile, the laugh, the warm touch of a hand?
You can’t get that from a computer – not even with a webcam.

Ah, I know I sound all dirgy – or at least stodgy. Something that ends in “gy.” Perhaps dodgy. Or pudgy. Or stingy.

I guess I just don’t want to wake up some day and realize I “could have been doing so much more” and that I wasted too much time surfing the Net or watching the Road Runner get away for the eleventy thousandth time. My kids already know about reruns. Ugh.

It’s hard to change bad habits. With something like this, everyone has to be on board or it won’t work. I’m certain spring will help because we have not been compelled to hang around outside when the windchill is -30C.

Let’s all get out there and smell the, uh, dog yech.


Heather the great. said...

dog yech. yikes!

Damn screen time. IT is quarter to midnight and I work tomorrow, husband has been asleep for 2 hours, yet here I sit. egad.

momma's heart said...

I'm sure by the end of winter, most parents wonder if their kids are watching too much TV. There are a lot of hours in a day, and kids understandably get bored of the same indoor activities. TV and computer are diversions that are different every day, unlike their supply of toys? I dunno. I can't wait for spring weather, and for the mud to try up.