Thursday, February 26, 2009

The Matron Needs a Conversation

Really! She wonders: how much screen time is too much?

Yesterday's off color blog post reflected the fierce Battle of Will that is Matron vs Stryker, specifically regarding screen time: iPod, cell phone, lap top and television, to be precise. He is a tiny bit engaged with Game but adores the art of Passive Entertainment.

Matron: "That's enough screens."


Matron: "I'll play scrabble with you."

Stryker: "NO. I don't feel like playing board games."

Matron: "Read a book?"

Stryker: "You always suggest reading. Can't you think of anything else other than reading?"

Matron: "Bake cookies?"

Stryker: "Mom!"

And so on. But the 'so on' frequently spirals into Accusation and Assault, both sides.

In his defense, the child attends a math and science magnet school where he is an A and A + student. He has friends aplenty and Social Organizations like Little League and Computer Club. Turning the corner toward 13, he reads as well as the Matron and enjoys that, too. So there's good stuff.

But outside of that realm, all he cares about is Screen.

He's not alone. In his very fine (she's jealous but do check out his five factors) book, Boys Adrift, psychologist Leanord Sax posits that young men are not living up to their potential -- in part, video games are to blame. The Matron might see this more broadly as Screen and the passivity and inertia said sqaures inspire.

The group dropping like flies at the Matron's community college? Young men ages 18-24, although this academic duly notes poverty as an element here, as well. (Over 40% of the Matron's student experience poverty while in school)

But she is specificially worried about her firstborn, who is, like all eldest, is destined to be the great Battlefield of first attempts and new territories. Screen time!? How to nagivate with teens? Besides being friends with him on Facebook (she is!).


Cheri @ Blog This Mom!® said...

Disclaimer: WTFrick do I know?

Thought: If he is doing so well in school, has friends, and is engaged in social organizations as you describe? I'd let him manage his own free time. If the Matron feels he needs to read more or perhaps would like to see Stryker participate in some sort of community service opportunity, then perhaps the Matron might require this rather than negotiate it. And then let him manage his free time.


Anonymous said...

Man, thanks for this--last night Mr. D and I went to dinner and had a new debate about video games in our house. He is staunchly opposed while I'm starting to cave a bit--you've just added to his arguments. He would luff you.

Lynda said...

Well, one thing I have learned from having a teen is give them some choose the things...but they feel good about it when they choose...
perhaps something like: we're okay with all your screen time as long as your grades are okay, etc... however, we want you to choose at least one hour (or however much) a day of the following: reading, bike riding, whatever else interests him...which would you like to choose?

Minnesota Matron said...

I like the idea, Lynda! We sort of do that informally now as we wrap up screens at least half an hour before bedtime. Maybe a more formal rule . . . and a parts of me agree both with Cheri and Green Girl! If only we'd never! But at 13, they all live online.

Michele R said...

My eldest is soon to be 13 and has a heavy load in "gifted" classes. Husband is a teacher. Parents are no techies and although up-to-date we are old fashioned in these ways: no cell phone, a cheapie MP3 player, not allowed on our one family computer unless he asks and Facebook is not even a vocab word. Plays video games with his two bros or friends. Plays baseball. Has friends near enuf to BIKERIDE to each others houses and plays football in yards with them. Earns his own money for past two years with two yard cutting customers in spring, summer, fall(our sons are taught in 5th grade by husband to mow, edge and blow). Not much else freetime but if they need it husband has them raking leaves or other chores to do. He likes to watch movies with his bros or with all of us. So not many screen items in our house but it is universal to pick our battles with them and for moms to worry about these sons who're hitting puberty.

Suburban Correspondent said...

Simple time limits, with no explaining or arguing with him...he won't be happy, but there is no way for him to find different ways to amuse himself if the screen is always available...I know my kids would watch TV or play on the computer all the time if I didn't set strict limits. It's like potato chips - someone has to take the bag away.

Or go with what Cheri says - although if your gut is telling you there is too much screen time, you might want to listen to it.

Anonymous said...

I think giving children choices is important and allowing them to manage their free time is critical. If we forbid, restrict or limit something, that "thing" will become more desirable and more powerful. If we give them options, they'll learn how to make decisions. If we try to control them, they'll resent us. If kids are busy, busy, busy they need and deserve some time to do what THEY want to. Kids are smarter than we give them credit for when it comes to these sort of issues. I've found that when I take the time to explain my concerns and talk through issues (which requires LISTENING from BOTH sides) we're able to come to an acceptable resolution.

Daisy said...

Screen time "damage" can be insiduous. One more question: is his handwriting legible? Many kids grow up with weak fine motor skills because they do too much screen time, not enough hand exercise (playdough, etc.).

MJ said...

Urgh. I know this issue will be coming here soon too as my 5 year old had a fit when her 20 minutes computer time expired. I read this and see the writing in the far distance on a wall (even while wearing my nearsighted glasses).

Cheri @ Blog This Mom!® said...


I was thinking about this some more. And I read what Surburban Correspondent said (I think she is so wise) -- and the other wonderful commenters too.

Absolutely go with your gut. Set time limits, if you feel that is necessary. Don't negotiate them, set them. For instance, in our house, we do not watch television during the week. By "we," of course, I mean Laura. ;-) As far as screen time for her, I prefer computer time over TV and games generally. She writes stories and creates "webcasts" and messes with her photos and makes cartoons and emails her friends and family on her computer.

But, as a rule, if my kids are doing well in school, serving their community in some way, playing a sport, and involved in organizations at school, I pretty much leave them to manage their own free time.

So, while I stand by my earlier disclaimer, WTFrick do I know? I will say (and while this MIGHT sound like bragging, you can be certain that I MEAN IT to sound like bragging), my two oldest children have graduated from college (the oldest graduated with the highest GPA in her major).

From all you've described in Stryker, including (and especially) his Simpson's marathon, I think you're doing it just right.

Jenn @ Juggling Life said...

I know your worry well--and it's much harder with the younger kids than the oldest ones because, frankly, you're really tired by the time your youngest is 14.

I don't know the solution, but I noticed things really slipping into too much screen time around here. I hid all the remotes and game controllers on Monday and we've had an excellent week with lots of reading and baking involved.

Minnesota Matron said...

Thank you! The issue still burns through this household. Your words? Invaluable! I love mamas!!

Waffle said...

When you work this one out Matron, please pass along answers. I can already see this one shaping up with my first born, screen loving non-reader that he is.

JCK said...

Another book you've introduced that I'm interested in picking up.

My son is only 5, but the speed in which he gets drawn in to time watching tv or on the computer is scary to me. I have to monitor and cut him off already...

It sounds like he's doing well in his life. Too funny on the Facebook.