My Son Watches Lots of Media. Here’s Why.

I believe that too much “media,” as my son’s Waldorf School calls it, is a bad idea. Studies show it. It makes my kid somewhat restless afterwards and he should be doing other things. No doubt.

During the school year, this is not an issue. We have school, homework, extracurriculars and play dates.

ENTER SUMMER.

When I was a kid, the TV would come on with trashy reruns in summertime. Then my friends would come over or vise versa and we’d head out.  Even if we watched TV for a bit it would get boring and we’d leave it.

Media in all its forms no longer gets boring. But that’s not the issue IMO. The issue is that friends no longer “come over.” My son is an only child so I am acutely aware of this fact. If I do not arrange a play date on a summer day, he will spend it alone.  There are no children “out.”  They are at camp, at sitters, traveling or at play dates (if not inside on their own devices). Even a child that lives down the street never comes over because the street is too busy for her to walk it alone.

And while I encourage my son to go drop in on her, he will not, saying, that dropping by “would be weird.” And he’s right. The social norm now is to call first.  Because if I send him over to “play,” the children will not simply carry on all day in the streets and yards unsupervised. There is a modern, implied supervision. Meaning that when my son drops by, I am essentially saying to this family, “Here, you look after my kid.”  And doing so without a call and an arrangement is rude.

My point is that the whole culture of childhood has changed. I never understood why people wanted to live in those McMansion type developments, but now I see that they are micro communities for children, who are allowed to play on their block, filled with other pre-approved children from families who have agreed to let them walk about.

My child, an only in a small city, is afforded no such luxury and so … play dates. When children are 6 and younger, everyone is fine with play dates (hence the uncool “play” label).  It’s social time for Moms and young kids.  By age 7, one is supposed to drop them off for a half day with another adult and then the child care favor is to be reciprocated.

When summer comes, however, this becomes even more complicated as travel, camps and childcare gets scheduled weeks in advance for working parents.

My family has found work-arounds. We have camps, standing play dates, and now a membership to a lake full of children. But there are still summer days with nothing scheduled (Thank GOD).  But on those days my son can read 3 hours, play legos for 1, play with me for 1, play in the yard alone for 1,  and then it is LUNCHTIME. That means he can sit down to 3 hours of Minecraft, easily, while I try and work. On these days, I wish I’d had more kids to be playmates.

Incidentally, is it no wonder that children in our society today spend an average of 7 hours a day engaged with screens? Imagine the schedule above without the “workarounds” built in and afforded by disposable income and work at home flexibility.  Many working mothers must leave kids home alone or with neighbors too busy to care what the kids do all day.  No money for Lakes and camps. Can we blame them or be surprised that their kids sit with video game controllers seven hours a day?

Tell me, mothers, is this your experience?  Are my circumstances (city living with one child) clouding my view of “how things have changed?”

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