Media Lite in a Media Loving Family

I need to confess something.  One of my New Years Resolutions is to watch more television.

Shock.

Horror.

Much Disappointed.

Very T.V.

The Doge meme basically writes itself.

See I told you.

But Molly, you’re a hip mom who crafts homemade Montessori materials and bakes muffins, how could you undermine the revolution?

Well, after much consideration I finally had to admit something.  We like watching movie, and television shows and YouTube videos.  We actually enjoy doing those things in each others company and sometimes quality family time comes in surprising ways.  Like when your four year is introduced to Lego Movie and is suddenly much more interested in building things, and Lego books and superheroes.  Or when you dance around like a giddy fool to that song at the end of Tangled with said family because it just makes you happy.  Or you and your husband stand around the kitchen for a solid hour mapping out the plot to the next Avengers movies.  It can be a shock:  we’re spending time, talking, reading books and playing with these toys because of media.

We, as a family and as a married couple enjoy media.  My husband and I love theatre, concerts, movies, comic books and so much more together and a big facilitator to that in this stage of life are coming from screens.  Our regular date nights revolve around dinner and a movie or a pizza and catching up on a t.v. series – that is what we enjoy doing together.  It facilitates laughter and tears and hours of conversation.

To us a good movie or a quality T.V. show isn’t just a way to mindlessly erase a few hours.  What we watch we do so because we appreciate the writing, or the acting or the costumes or the skill of the animators or designers.  Being the artistic, theatre loving, spectacle understanding  people we are that media is actually a part of our personalities and how we relate as a couple and how we hope to relate as parents and child.  The idea of not sharing my husband love of superheros or my love of animation with each other would be strange.  When I was a kid there wasn’t a lot of theatre around in my towns so you know how it first started to interested me?  Movies; filmed versions of musicals and stage shows and Cirque du Soleil that lead me down a very artistic, skilled career.

And I’ll let you in on a little secret.  I think movies and the occasional T.V. series are the lesser of the media evils right now.  When I was a kid we obsessed about the length of Saturday morning cartoons and now kids can literally be plugged into non-stop entertainment.  When I see a child glued to a screen out in public, with a tool that requires very little skill to manipulate that half hour of T.V. doesn’t look so bad.

So what do we do to make sure it doesn’t rule our lives?  We set limits and have rules.

  • The television is in our basement away from regularly used areas of the house.
  • Computers and phones are for adult use only – no children’s game or learning tools on them.
  • T.V. is something that can be earned and taken away, sometimes for days, for bad behavior.  It’s not a given.
  • No extra screens like I-pads, “learning toys” or screens in the car.
  • Most T.V. time is limited to either first thing in the morning or “when it gets dark”, and often involves a barter about what he can or cannot watch now and later.
  • There are still limits on what or what not can be watched around or by the younger member of the family.
  • We look for movies and shows that encourage discussion, finding books to read or different kinds of play when the television is off.  If it’s not encouraging one of those things we’re probably not watching it.

There are some amazing families that go totally screen free and that’s amazing, and most likely that’s exactly what their family needs.  There are amazing families who don’t limit screens as much as we do; their different limits fit their families or something like a I-pad that’s a toy for some might be a crucial tool for a child.  Not all technology is evil and I try to remember this when I see those screens at a restaurant or in the store – I always try to give the benefit of the doubt even if it wouldn’t work for us.

So if you enjoy the occasional show or movie, and have found a way for it not to turn your children into ravenous screen junkies.  Huzzah!  We’re kindred spirits.

Now I’m off to watch a movie with my boys, cuddle on the couch and do some knitting.

8 thoughts on “Media Lite in a Media Loving Family

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  1. You stole our family rules! Although the girls use the computer for math games and once the chores are done and mom or dad doesn't need help with something then they can play Minecraft for a short while. My children have very limited screen time but it certainly is the first thing to go as punishment. It is also something they can earn a little extra of. Fridays are movie and pizza nights and it is something we all look forward to! Enjoy your movie and couch cuddles 🙂

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  2. Great reflection Molly! I would also add that sometimes a little screen time is preferable to a maxed out mom who looses her cool. If I let the kids watch just a 25 minute show every day while I make lunch, life is SO much better. I can take the time to prepare healthier food (rather than rushing to microwave something), I can prepare my lunch too so I don't get too hungry (and thus cranky), I don't yell at them for being impatient or getting in my way in the kitchen, and I'm rested enough from my short break to have the energy to read to them while they eat. It's a win for everyone and totally worth the trade-off for me.

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  3. I am right there with you on all of this! I actually am trying to spend more time with my husband watching TV because just my presence beside him while he relaxes is all he wants. I hate that I have been a snob at times about how I DON'T watch a lot of TV, particularly to my husband.;( So I am working on making the choice to spend time with my husband doing something that relaxes him and that HE enjoys. And he doesnt mind if I am on my laptop blogging some of that time.;) I feel like you are well balanced on this topic, especially in how you note that different families can choose different rules for screen time and still be “amazing.” Just found your blog through Fountains of Home recently and really enjoy it! God bless;)

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  4. Relatively new follower, first time commenting (I think) 🙂

    I loved this because I realized recently that letting my toddler watch a movie most afternoons is not as bad as I once thought…because it gives my introverted self the quiet time I need to not lose my sanity (my extroverted toddler talks all.day.long.). It's what works for our family! We don't have tablets or let him play with our phones so I feel like TV time is fine if it's making us all happier….and holier, assuming that I use some of that quiet to pray!

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  5. At our house, there's been Aitken too much screen time lately, so for Lent we're trying only after 5pm. Because I'm actually the worst offender and by that time I've been about as productive as I'm going to be for the day 🙂

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  6. Growing up with my three siblings, TV and movies were a privilege. We were not allowed to turn on the TV without asking permission first. I can't say I am any worse off for it. In fact, I am sure it has a lot to do with the fact that I spent most of my childhood playing outside or reading. My husband, on the other hand, grew up with all the TV time he wanted. As an adult, that TV time turned into a love of movie-making and a love of stories for him. Now, when we watch TV together as a married couple, we can spend many hours afterward in conversation talking about the stories or other elements behind what we have seen on TV. TV is not intrinsically bad! 🙂 ALL that to say… I really enjoyed this post. You make many great points!

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