Is your family addicted to the media? Do your children know their cartoon characters and plot-lines better than Dr. Seuss?
No doubt the answer for my family is yes. Television is a wonderful companion and is the electronic babysitter. Particularly when you have little ones it brings a welcome pocket of relief or a welcome distraction for sick kids.
Yet in today’s modern family, media now comes in all forms, shapes and sizes with a vast array of televisions screens and portable hand held devices that it easily can and so desperately wants to occupy your world 24/7.
Just how healthy is your family’s media diet?
Traveling can now be a media experience where you can pop on a DVD for the kids while you chat hands-free on the car phone’s built in blue tooth system. Dinner can be a virtual experience: the kids on their handheld video game players, while Mom chats away on her smart phone and Dad works on his iPad.
Has the old-school family pasttime of talking around the table been “upgraded” into extinction? Are dinnertime discussions even important anymore?
During this particular week with the holiday celebrations of Passover and Easter that there should be plenty to talk about and family activities to do together, but have we lost our way?
After all there is a film to serve as a side dish for every holiday.
To learn about the story of Moses, you can turn on the “10 Commandments” with icon Charlton Heston (1956, Cecille B. Demille) rather than reading from a prayer book. New for Easter this year, there’s “Hop” (2011, Tim Hill). When Christmas rolls around just take your pick – “A Christmas Carol,” “Rudolph The Red Nose Reindeer,” “Frosty the Snowman,” “It’s A Wonderful Life.”
In a world where my three-year-old daughter claims to have to check her e-mail, I wonder how dependent we are on media distractions and how are we shaping up their future.
In partnership with CA Technologies, Fair Media Council, The Early Years Institute in Plainview is proposing a national “Screen Free” week this Spring break for families to limit if not completely go black with their screen time. According to EYI's website the campaign aims to “reduce the time children and adults spend with TV, computers, video games and hand-held devices.”
Which begs the question – can your family turn this “spring” break into a “screen” break?
So far, my answer is no, but man my family can seriously use a TV time out. At the initial thought of not having the TV on this week, I froze. What else is there to do?
EYI's website offers a host of “screen free” activities for families. There’s a whole world to explore, including events at local libraries, which those on tight budgets will especially appreciate. Other organizations, including museums and businesses have joined in to help you with an activity plan and to provide discounts during this week to lure you out from behind your television.
But wait, isn’t that another distraction of having something else to do? What’s the difference if my family just sits on the couch and watches TV?
Part of the mission is for family’s to be more aware of what their watching and how much of it. They’ve provided “Activity Log Chart” to chart the TV time you are watching and to log in your screen-free activities.
The Early Years Institute has a four-step process on its website to help families
ween themselves off TV:
- Evaluate your family’s media usage. What are you watching, how many hours of television, what are the shows and why? Do you like them? Do your children like them?
- Set family guidelines. Do you have TVs in your bedroom, and in your kid’s bedrooms? Do you watch TV during meals?
- Talk. Speak with your children about their television usage. Do they understand that commercials are trying to sell them something?
- Find alternatives. What else can you do with your kids? When was the last time you talked, played, sang, read went outdoors.
How does your family maintain a healthy relationship with media?
Joining us on today’s Family Forum is Dana Friedman, the president of The Early Years Institute.