Here in the vast frozen north — a.k.a. New England, post-blizzard — 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 crappy to 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 screen time.
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?