Monday, September 27, 2010

Kid Play Today

When I was little, my Mom used to limit our TV time. We each had 30 allotted minutes a day to watch a program. Between my brother and sister, this was an hour and a half total. We would put our heads together over the TV Guide on Sundays and spend (what seemed like) hours plotting out our schedule for the week to maximize our TV air time.

My brother and I had no problem picking two shows we both liked, such as, Gilligans Island, The Flintstones or Brady Bunch.  Sometimes, we'd have to pool our time to watch an hour long show like the Sonny & Cher Hour, Donny & Marie or C.H.I.P.S.  My sister, on the other hand, was four years younger than me and her show choices always threw a wrench into our plans.  Looking back, my Mother was one smart cookie.  She wanted us outside playing games and riding our bikes, but she used the situation to force us to work together and form our negotiating and communication skills. She probably didn't even realize that's what she was doing... but I'll pretend like she did and give her some props!

Today, parents struggle with the same dilemma about their children's free-time choices, but we have a lot more electronic choices than just TV to factor into the mix: iTouch, PlayStation, Wii, computer websites, etc.

I was struck with this reality when I walked into my family room recently and saw this scene (see photo below) - three boys sitting on my couch totally absorbed in Apple Apps playing games on an iTouch and an iPad.  Not a word was spoken, as they took turns trading the devices back and forth completing levels and comparing scores.

I struggle with the same thing my Mother did. I wonder, "Is all the electronic stuff good for them? Are they learning better hand eye coordination? Through these games are they learning about decisions and consequences? Or is this just stuff I tell myself so I don't feel bad about letting him spend his time this way?"  I worry about the lack of "real" communication and human interaction and the impact that will have on this generation when they grow up and are forced to use "real" people skills to navigate both a personal and work life.

My Mother used to say, "When I was your age... we didn't even have a TV until I was in high school and you only had 3 channels and there were only shows on after 5 o'clock and if we wanted to have fun, I went out and rode my horse and climbed trees and road my bike... blah. blah. blah."  I would roll my eyes and think she was so weird and out of touch.

I'm trying to not say to my son, "When I was your age..." and wish nostalgically that his childhood could be like mine was.  Because it can't.  I just have to make the best choices and decisions I can and hope that one day he grows up and says, "She probably didn't even realize what she was doing (when she taught me all that valuable stuff about life)... but I'll pretend like she did and give her some props!