Saturday, May 23, 2009

Life Offline

Over on Digital Mom, writer Melissa Sais muses about screen time.

We've been told over and over how bad sitting in front of the TV is for our boys. And the common wisdom is that video games are addictive, mind-numbing entertainment of questionable value. Never mind that -- like everything else -- both TV and video games have some positives as well.

But Melissa makes an interesting point. Listen:

"I think all digital moms worry about the amount of “screen time” we allow our kids. Is it frying their brains and turning their bodies into mush? I think it can if we don’t pay some attention to pursuits outside the digital realm. And I realize I have to show leadership in pursuing the non-digital options."

She goes on to talk about how she has better luck suggesting and initiating active alternatives, instead of simply saying, "TV off!" But her line about showing leadership in pursuing non-digital options hit me another way too.

It's the old show-don't-tell concept. If I want my kids to spend more time in the natural world, then I need to spend more time in the natural world. Sitting at my computer, playing Pathwords on Facebook while I tell the boys to go outside smacks of hypocrisy.

Yes, sometimes I need my quiet down time; we all do, and none of us should feel guilty about that. But I really need to consider what my actions tell my boys. More often than not lately, my actions have been saying, "Go ahead. Watch TV. I like having some quiet time to myself," and "The digital world is more interesting than real life."

That last one is a harsh realization, but between all the fun I'm having with my blog, the blogathon, Twitter, Facebook and my usual everyday email and work stuff, I'll admit that I've been spending a lot of time online. If I want my kids to spend more time in the non-digital realm, maybe it's time for me to rediscover some non-digital pastimes. Maybe it's time to pull out the watercolors. Time to knit for 15 minutes while supper cooks, rather than hopping online. Time to head out for a walk.

What do you think? How do you show leadership in pursuing non-digital options?


  1. I have been feeling that a lot that all my free time is computer time. I enjoy it, I like checking blogs, and peoples status on facebook but I too am realizing there are better things I could be doing and while I enjoy screen time I need more time just reflecting and not being consumed by the online world ...

    Great post!

  2. Good point about modeling behavior you expect your children to follow. It definitely makes sense to teach your children to pay attention to what people do, and not so much what they say.

    That being said, it's a good thing I have no children living with me at home, that mine are grown. I wouldn't want them spending too much time on the Internet, cell phones and other techy stuff. But guess where I'm at these days? Oh boy!

  3. Non-digital options? We have a one year old "puppy" that requires attention from all of us, including our twice daily walks with her. I walk, the boys either scooter or bike, and we go around the neighborhood. The added benefit of this is meeting our older neighbors who also walk. We do this around 10am, so we all have had "ample" time on our computers beforehand (usually we are on by 7:30).

    I am not a TV watcher, and my kids have (so far) followed my inclination to turn it off unless there is something really important to watch. We also have 2 mini tramps and a treadmill in front of the TV so it is a dynamic outlet for us.

    I love to hike, bike and be outside. We are active pretty much everyday. I watch them carefully while they are at the computer, they have definite "signs" that indicate they are looking for some active time. I try to always suggest getting outside after multiple falls off the chair, trips back and forth to the counter to climb it, or general restlessness.

    Of course, my profession is physical therapy, and I teach health and fitness for fun. Maybe I should blog about my ideas for getting out and active!

  4. No comment. *blushing*

  5. Andrea -- You have some great ideas. I think what trips me up a lot of the time are the varying ages of my boys. There are things I could do with my 8 and 11 yr. old that I just can't do when I have a 3 yr. old along. Although we did find out that the climbing gym is a great place for the entire family to get some exercise in. Everyone can be active at his or her own level.

  6. I'm a firm believer in modeling behavior (though I'm not always perfect at it ;) And while I also believe that there are good things to be had from screen time (my son's doctor actually *recommended* that we get him video games!) - I also notice a pronounced negative change in his behavior if he spends too much time in front of them. I think, as with anything, that moderation is the key.