Thursday, February 10, 2011

How much TV do your kids watch?

After a series of snowstorms that left our driveway too icy to drive on and our yard filled with snowdrifts that are deeper than my youngest kids are tall, we've been dealing with snow days, too-cold-to-venture-out days, and how-did-it-get-so-dark-out-already days. Which means that my kids have been spending more time in front of the TV than the American Academy of Pediatrics would like.

And that's just TV. Add in the time spent playing Wii (it counts as exercise if it's too cold and/or snowy go outside, right?), the time in the car with their Leapsters, and the time I'm on deadline and I hand them my iPhone and, well, that's a lot of time spent staring at a screen.

Recent studies show that my family isn't the only one where the screens are on a lot of the time. Last year, the  The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation shows  that kids age 8 to 18 spend more than 53 hours a week online or in  front of a TV screen. That's a little more than seven-and-a-half hours a  day during which they're viewing or clicking away, not just at the  computer, but on smartphones and video games as well.

That statistic instantly made me feel better, because 7 1/2-hours a day? Not in my house. At least, not on a school day. Unless I'm also on deadline. Or their older siblings are home and we're having a Rock Band/Wii Sports/"How It's Made" marathon. Also: My job involves sitting in front of a computer and writing and editing for 8 to 10 hours a day; no matter how much screen time they get, it's far less than what I do.

Still, when it comes to working moms and their kids, TV is just another something to feel guilty about.  No matter how strict you are about what they can and can't watch, when,  and for how long, the day will come when you are slammed and, next  thing you know, you've inadvertently allowed your kids to watch  back-to-back(-to-back-to-back-to-back) episodes of "Spongebob  Squarepants." They're mimicking Squidward and nasally whining that  you're interrupting their genius, while you're wondering if there's any  way to undo the damage.

The thing is, even with the TV on, my kids are usually involved in something else. Right now, that's usually sneaking around the house playing spies, or putting on costumes and being Spiderman (4-year-old boy) and Tinkerbelle (6-year-old girl), or building fortresses out of blocks and then hiding matchbox cars in them. So while I do feel badly about it sometimes -- usually when check-up time rolls around and our pediatrician asks me how much screen time they get (my answer: "Probably more than they should") -- for the most part, I'm going to chalk TV time up to the perils of modern-day parenthood and cut myself some slack.

But I've 'fessed up, so readers, chime in: How much screen time do your kids get? Are they usually watching, or is it on while they're involved in other things?


Shannon W said...

Well - I decided checking my 3-year old son's Leapfrog Learning path was just not worth it after it told me he played 16 hours of Mr. Pencil in one week.(he was home sick a lot that week though)

My kids are out of the house so much at Daycare or School and afterschool, where screen time is extremely limited, that try not to worry too much about their screen time at home. Esp. since it's winter. Plus when they play Wii it is always with each other or with one of us so I don't feel too guilty about Wii.

I do feel a little guilty though and do have to limit it somewhat because they do not do other things while watching TV.

Shannon W said...

Oh, and I guess I better fess up the total: probably about 25-30 hours per week between TV, kid's internet sites, Wii, and Leapster/DS.