I’ve never admitted to being a perfect parent. In fact, I am far from it. My kids eat like crap (processed foods, chips, Mcdonalds, really whatever the hell I can get them to eat..), we don’t follow daily schedules, I forget to brush teeth some nights, and I do not have a screen time limit. I wish I were a more structured mom, but honestly…. Whatever.
Has anyone heard the parenting tip: “Don’t let the TV be the babysitter?” Let’s all laugh together.. Don’t get me wrong, I do believe that your kids shouldn’t be staring at a tv screen 18 hours a day. But isn’t parenting just easier when you can make dinner, take a shower, or clean the house uninterrupted because your kids are content and distracted?
I will say that my children are learning things from their screens that I couldn’t teach them. Not that I haven’t tried to teach them certain things.. but often times with my kids I’m just the teacher from Charlie Brown
Both of my kids have always had intense focus when it came to TV. Camille for instance, has learned so much from her favorite movies and shows. She had no desire to sit down and read books together. She did not take to using picture cards or sign language. One thing that she is doing, however, is watching shows and repeating words and phrases that she hears. I have heard her say SO MANY words, none of which are consistent or used for actual communication. She has memorized the lines and the songs from these movies and knows most of them by heart.
Just because she’s not actively trying to communicate with me, there isn’t a doubt in my mind that she doesn’t have an age appropriate vocabulary by now….. it’s just stuck in her head. Her favorite show, Word Party, just added a new season with a brand new character. A baby turtle who speaks mandarin. Camille is starting to say the words they say in Mandarin!
As for my son, Eli, he has always been a lover of TV. We brought him to his first movie at a movie theater when he was a little over a year old and it was true love ever since.
Now that he’s a little older, he’s let his love stretch across all different kinds of electronics. He watches shows and movies, watches Youtube videos, plays on his ipad, Nintendo switch, and WiiU. At a glance it looks like he’s just wasting his time with his face in a screen… and maybe he is, but honestly he is learning a lot more than he is wasting. Let me explain.
What Minecraft is teaching my son:
- Geology: One day he told me he was having a hard time finding more obsidian. I’m like….what? I had to google what he was talking about. He knows all the different kinds of rocks, stones, gems, and soils.
- Agriculture: He’s learning how to start and maintain gardens, what foods grow in the ground and above of the ground, what certain animals eat, etc.
- Survival skills: when he plays this game in “Survival Mode” he has to keep track of his health and hunger levels. He has to keep his character out of danger, learn how to ward off things that can hurt him, he creates fire, makes shelter. He’s a regular boy scout!
- Architecture: When Eli finishes a house, it honestly blows my mind. He can make the most elaborately designed houses. He makes secret passageways, hidden rooms, basements, attics, spare bedrooms. I’ve tinkered with the game in the past and I can tell you… this stuff is NOT easy.
- Creativity: Watching him play this game is so mesmerizing. He gets so lost in this alternate universe. He creates scenarios and storylines; it’s truly great to see him in love with something so much. During his free time at school he creates Minecraft story books with hand drawn artwork and a story to match.
His love for Minecraft is insane. It’s an obsession, really. For his birthday this year, in lieu of a party I bought tickets for us to go to Minefaire in Indianapolis. He gets to meet all his favorite Youtubers, play the game on big screens and via virtual reality, watch stage shows, hang out with other Minecraft-obsessed kids his age.
What Super Mario Maker (Nintendo Switch) is teaching my son:
- Creativity: If you’re unfamiliar with this game, you are creating your own levels from all versions of Mario Bros. he’s taught himself (I was no help) how to use all the features and how to make a new functioning and achievable level. Each level he makes is completely different from other ones he has done before.
- Problem solving: Once you make your level you can then play the level. If he goes to play a level that he had just made and realizes that it is not achievable, he goes back and adjusts the problem areas.
- Hand-eye coordination: Playing games like this is really helping him in this area. Holding the remote in his hands while concentrating on the screen is actually a great thing (in small doses, of course!)
How can Youtube possibly be helping my child?:
*Just a preface- this is based entirely on my son’s personal watch history on his kids Youtube account. I am fully aware of how much pointless, and often, inappropriate crap is on Youtube, even kids Youtube!*
– Minecraft: He knows all the top Minecraft Youtubers. He pays attention so well to these videos and is actually learning from them. He remembers different things these people make in the game and tries them on his own later. I would love to add that this is improving his listening skills when it comes to listening to his mother, alas it just appears to be for the TV.
– Life Hacks: The new craze Eli has been into on Youtube is Lifehacks. One day he came barreling out of his room asking me for solo cups and an empty paper towel roll. He watched a video on how to make a DIY speaker for a phone or Ipad and he wanted to make a speaker so he could “hear his games louder”
Listen… I know sitting in front of a screen all day is no way for a child to live. Kids need to be kids. I want my kids to be with friends, run around outside, play sports, make mud soup after a rainstorm. But let me be honest, if I’m busy, we have no plans, the weather is crappy out, or I’m just honest-to-God too tired to parent… my kids will be watching tv, playing games, or whatever. The whole “don’t let the TV be the babysitter” thing is not my style at all. As long as you are monitoring WHAT your kids are watching and HOW LONG they are watching screens for, it can actually be a great learning resource for them.
NEVER let people guilt you for your parenting choices. If your children are loved, clothed, and fed you are doing just fine.