My 9-year-old daughter lives in a geeky household: at any given time, we have two laptops and two desktop computers with dual 17″ monitors. Two of our computers dual-boot into Windows and Linux. Each of us has a phone, two of them smartphones. A Gameboy, DS, DSi and Wii. On weekend mornings, instead of sitting at the breakfast table with our newspapers, we’re in bed reading the news with our laptops and smartphones. When we’re cooking, we keep a laptop on the kitchen counter to follow recipes. My daughter has been playing computer games since she was two. She has had her own computer since she was four. How much is too much?
We try to set limits on her media consumption during the week. 1 hour of whatever combination she chooses: TV, Wii, DS, or Toontown.com. On the weekends, we try to get out of the house on hikes in the many forest preserves in and around Chicago, take her to her soccer games, playdates, and encourage her to draw, write, and play her guitar. It doesn’t always work, but at least we’re aware and at least we try. Is that enough?
According to a new Kaiser Family Foundation study about kids’ use of media, “entertainment media” use among children and teens is up dramatically from five years ago, to 7.5 hours per day. It also found that about 70 percent of youth say their families have no rules about how much time they can spend with TV, video games or computers. The heaviest media users get lower grades.
I would consider my daughter a heavy media user–but so are her parents. Media is by no means a “babysitter” in our household, but our way of life. Incidentally, my daughter is an honor roll student, talented artist, writer, and budding musician. But I still think I need to limit the amount of time she spends playing games and watching TV.
Do you have rules about how much time your kids spend on video games, TV, and computers? What works or doesn’t work for you?