The other day I was looking around at my family. My son was playing a video game on the computer, my husband was watching Netflix on the TV, and I was upstairs doing something on my laptop. We were spending quality time together as a family, NOT! (My lame attempt at being sarcastic.)
Do you sit with your family in the same room–each on a different media device? Do you sit down to a meal together as a family, and the kids are busy texting their friends and posting on facebook what they are eating for dinner, while mom and dad are checking their work email on their smart phones? Do you find that you cannot go for a 20 minute drive without turning on a video in the car to keep your children entertained?
Media is a very important part of our lives today. I wonder sometimes if we make it a little too important. Remember the days when there were no cell phones? (My kids like to remind me that that was back when dinosaurs roamed the earth.) How did we survive?
When my husband and I were first married we made a conscious decision to get rid of our TV. We physically gave it away. I know you are thinking that we are a little bit crazy. You are not alone with those thoughts. We made that decision because we knew that we would ALWAYS be glued to the television and its content.
People used to ask us, what do you do if you don’t have a TV? Well, we read books, as a family and by ourselves. We played a lot of board games. We went for walks and to the park. We worked on projects that we wanted to finish. We laughed and played. We went to bed early. We spent quality time together as a family.
Now things are different–we have a television again. We have a Wii and an Xbox 360, a computer, a laptop, a game boy and an IPod, plus a couple of cell phones. We do not have cable or satellite, but we do have Netflix and a ton of DVDs and video games. We have plenty of media in our home to keep us distracted.
This is where we need to exercise self control and make sure that media is not all encompassing when it comes to being together. Some of you may think, oh let it be, everyone is happy. Well I know that in a blink of an eye my son will be off to college like his sister, and be out of our home. What will I have taught him if I do not teach my kids (and us parents) to exercise control when it comes to time spent on media? How much is too much? I think that we can only answer that question for our own situations, but I know that for my family we need to make an adjustment. I do not want my son’s memories of home to be of time spent on the gaming console alone.
I am issuing a challenge to all moms out there in cyber world (including myself). This challenge is going to require that we be strong! Be strong enough to withstand, begging, pleading, and big, sad puppy dog eyes. The challenge is to have media free time with our families. Try to go media free during a meal. This would include not answering any phone calls unless you have a doctor, policeman, or fireman in your home. Try for a couple of hours of family time that is media free, maybe one or two times a week. Be creative as parents and think of a fun activity that will engage your children and even your teenagers. Maybe we can even work up to a whole day or, if we are really courageous, to a full week without media.
For this challenge of going media free to work, we are going to have to plan. We will need to have activities ready for when the kids come to us saying that they are bored and that they NEED their IPod or they NEED to watch their favorite television show. Remember that it is OK for our kids to be bored.
I know that this challenge might be just as hard for us as adults as it is for our children. I also know that spending quality time together as a family is more precious than anything I could ever be given. So grab your cameras and make some memories as a family without media!