Home invasion - how we manage kids’ time with TVs and computers

Computers, TV and video games are fun. Addictive, time draining, brain zoning fun...and even the WII, whose games apparently get kids moving around still involves the television or computer monitor. From watching our kids we know that they, like us, zone out when the TV has their attention. It’s clear that their brains are taking a break. The computer is a bit better – they can interact with it, but I still intuitively feel it’s not as good as playing a game, running in the yard or reading a book.

Before our kids could ask for it, we decreed our home a video-console free zone. This was also before the WII which I must admit I want to own. Benjamin and Taylor envy the Nintendo DS whenever they see it – in fact, it’s led to more interactions with the snarly version of Benjamin than I care to recall.

During the school year, the kids understand that the rule is no TV or computer during the week except for homework. Saturday and Sunday have a two hour daily max, except for football season – which has a one-game max. There’s not a lot of time for them to watch TV during the week and I don’t see the reason for it. Of course, I’m not home with the kids – and neither is anyone else. They’re in school, day care, activities or playing with friends or each other. I appreciate how an in-the-home mom needs a break and a little TV every day apparently doesn’t hurt pre-schoolers as long as the parent controls the programming. Blue’s Clues and Dora are in...Ninja Turtles...not so much. Thank God for TiVo and every DVR that copied it.

We’re not alone in our determination for our kids to learn to entertain themselves and each other without electronics. President Obama regaled the NAACP last week about how we need to raise our children. People who are angry that he singled out the Xbox are missing the point of his lecture. I’m not sure the President of the United States should be focused on parenting and I hope he neither taxes nor regulates it.

We’re going to break down on our gaming console ban soon – we’re planning a 16-20 hour drive from San Francisco to Big Sky, Montana. Peace and quiet in the car requires extreme measures...like a console that plugs into the car DVD system and allows the kids to vary their entertainment. That said, I’ve asked the installer for an “all-off” button so that Mom and Dad in the front seat can shut off all electronics and ensure that our kids notice the majesty of the Rockies and Yellowstone.

How much TV and computer time is in your child’s life and how do you ration it?