I have been struggling of late to understand the intended outcome of Screen Free Week. I imagine it is hoped that the experience will inspire folks to reduce or eliminate the use of media during family time, but something about the way it is presented or framed reminds me of a crash diet – a concept I am all too familiar with from my adolescent ballet student days. (I went to a strict school with weigh-ins.)
As a grown up, I came to see the benefits of disciplined moderation. That is also how I feel about media for the time being. I have an ardent fascination with film and even well-produced episodic television, but I also have an almost- seven-year old. My husband and I decided early in our son’s life to change our media diet to support his development through early childhood. This is what disciplined moderation means to us in this context: we do have a laptop in our house, but we try to mostly use it when he is not in the room, and he is not allowed to touch it. He has never been to a movie theater, seen a television program or ballgame (except in stolen glances at relatives’ homes.) We don’t own a TV or smart phone or tablet. We don’t listen to radio news in the car or at home. (We do stream TV shows and movies after he goes to sleep. We are human!) There are great benefits to this lifestyle. We have conversations and experiences together that we wouldn’t have if we allowed media to fill in the gaps. My son doesn’t talk to adults with the coarse vernacular common to children’s programming.
I recognize the simplicity of having only one child where this issue is concerned, however, and I don’t mean to say that it is always easy and rosy. Our media choices have negatively impacted relationships with family members of differing opinions. And we don’t get much of a break from the often tedious – and near constant – needs of our young child. But we know that this is a tem- porary state. I greatly look forward to sharing my favorite films and TV shows (and books) with him when he is older but for now, I really do revel in the richness of his imagination, his ability to cre- ate scenarios on his own, without following a script – visual or linguistic.
The reading that I have done regarding research on this topic has been borne out by my observation of my child. I cannot think of a more compel- ling argument than that, and it is an argument that I strongly feel needs to be made. One of the most difficult outcomes of our media diet is that our son often feels left out of the community of his peers. He doesn’t know the words to the songs from the latest computer generated animated children’s movie while most of them do. He tries to imagine what he is missing. Meanwhile, I hold in my consciousness the conviction of the gift – protection from predatory marketing and the inhuman coldness of digital imagery – we are giving him in its place.
- Buffy Miller, parent of WSP kindergartener and Assistant Teacher in Snowdrop Nursery