Now that the holidays are over and we’ve made a dent in the new year, no doubt the kids are glued to the many new electronic wonders that have showed up over the last month or so. This is part of being a kid and certainly fine…. in moderation. The problem is we just keep piling on the electronic, time-eating gadgetry without ever compensating. Not many parents pulled the TV out of the house when the computer first arrived. This is a significant problem that we need to address.
We need to turn whatever is on off. It is as simple as that. Young people now devote an average of seven hours and 38 minutes to daily media use, or about 53 hours a week — more than a full-time job — according to a Kaiser Family Foundation report released in early 2010. Think about that for a second… more than a full time job. The scary part about this is it leaves no time for what they should be doing, specifically school work and being a kid. Now, I am certainly not an anti-TV person. I can recite every line to every episode of I Love Lucy ever made. The key is my parents knew when the box needed to be turned off and there was no discussion about it. We also didn’t have a TV in our rooms, which my wife and I hold to today. I actually had a young relative visit a few years back and ask, once he saw a single TV in my four-bedroom house, “are you poor?” In my book I go through many findings that document the problems associated with the time children spend with electronic media, but I think the astonishing fact mentioned above — more than a full time job each week — cuts to the heart of the matter.
As my six-year-old son would say, “This is a big, big problem.” For the New Year, we need to make changes to the amount of time electronic media is on in the house. Our rules are no TV during the school week, two hours Saturday AM (an American tradition) if rooms are cleaned up, no computer/DS/Leapster until all school work and chores are done and no electronics of any kind after dinner unless it is a family movie night. Also, no cell phone before the age of 16. If there is an issue at school, the child can go to the office and use that mysterious, ancient device called a land-line to call us. Anyone who thinks a phone at school isn’t a huge distraction from what the child should be doing is kidding themselves.
For some households, this will be an easy change. For others it will be a Battle Royal, but it has to happen. The electronic stuff that is on has to go off, period.