Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Screen time - my Grandmother would love this debate

When I was a but a boy I remember my grandmother telling my to stop reading so much. Constantly having my head in a book was bad for my eyes, she said. My parents' rationale for a two hour per week TV allotment was that any more and I'd go blind and rot my brain.

Has anyone gone blind from too much reading or TV watching? Are there documented cases of rotted brains due to too much ESPN or Nickelodeon?

My point? Would you tell a child, be it your own offspring or a student in your class, to stop reading books so much? Is it therefore instinctive as an adult to be wary of the new interests of youth, especially when those interests weren't accessible or didn't exist in our own childhood?

Will this issue of how much screen time to allow -- for ourselves, our students, and our own children -- seem as ridiculous to the youth of 2014 when they are parents themselves?

This photo made me really think about the screen time issue:

Yes, the photo meme has a social media slant, but as a child I remember my father reading the newspaper, both the New York Times and Wall Street Journal, cover to cover. He did this every day I can remember. Was anyone ever concerned about how much time he spent with his head in a newspaper? Not that I recall.

Is this issue of screen time the first real issue we face as real adults? Is this our first "if it's too loud you're too old" moment?

We always used to scoff at our parents and grandparents for what we thought were their stuffy, antiquated notions of what is safe, proper, etc. Is screen time the first real myth we are perpetuating as bona fide adults? 

When people ask me about my screen time and how I judge it for my children, I use the newspaper and book analogy. For every time someone sees me on my phone, computer, or iPad and thinks it's too much, would that same feeling be had if I were reading a book or newspaper? My kids watch an episode or two of Curious George on YouTube while my wife makes breakfast (I'm already at work). Beyond that they play. With toys. Inside and out. In fact, aside from the obligatory "no, Mommy, one more episode PLEASE" pleas when the iPad goes away, they walk away from it and play happily with non-digital toys.

Books and television weren't as assessable to my parents as they were to me. They were less accessible to my grandparents. Screen time has been dramatically more accessible to our children than it ever was to us.

My grandmother used to say comic books would rot my brain. My parents said TV would rot my brain. As far as I know my brain is free of both comic book & tv rot. Will this issue of screen-time be as silly to our children in 20 years as my grandmother's notion of comic books and television rotting my brain is to me now?

1 comment:

  1. Hi Chris! I think you have an excellent point. Older people will always say that too much of something is bad for us. I guess too much phone or reading time can result in damage to our eyes. In my opinion, what your grandmother and your father mean is that you can maybe do something more physical.
    Demetrius Flenaugh