screen time

Did you know it's Screen-Free week? I'm not participating, but in honor of the week, I thought I'd write a little about how we handle screen time in our house.

We have been cable-TV free for almost seven years (the year before Remy was born, we gave away our TV in trade for three shiatsu massages: best trade ever). We bought a projector and a screen and hooked it up to our (at that point) DVD player and a surround stereo system. Seven years later, we're on projector number two (the first one was really noisy), which is HD, and we now have a blu-ray system that has Netflix and Hulu built into it, so we can watch pretty much anything on the wall (we've ditched the screen because the wall in our living room is the perfect size for an even bigger movie-watching experience).

After Remy goes to bed (around 8pm), M and I occasionally watch DVDs/ Blu-s/ netflix/ hulu on the big screen. Currently we're plowing our way through season one of Game of Thrones and OMG I love it!!! I think I've mentioned that I've read the books many times before; I started reading the series in 2002, so I've read the first books a few times. I'll probably do another re-read this summer. I really really would like to wish George RR Martin speedy writing, so he can finish the series soon.

Anyway, a lot of nights, M just watches shows via hulu on his netbook because I don't want more screen time (I'm on the computer almost all day) and I'll read a book. He also reads a lot (we all read a lot) but he likes to fall asleep watching shows because it is mindless. That's not how I watch shows (I get involved), so we do our own thing. It's all good.

When we lived in the apartment last year, we couldn't use our projector system, so we bought a 19 inch TV that had a DVD player built into it. That's what Remy (still) watches movies on. He has no interest in watching anything through the projector (it scares him a little now, after being put away for a year) and will only watch Netflix via my iPod touch or the netbook.

Originally, my plan was not to introduce shows/ movies til he was about four, but that got thrown out the window when I got bronchitis when Remy was 18 months old (and M was away for a conference that week). Elmo saved me. It was still hard, but not as hard as it could have been. I was the only one of my real life friends who had never allowed shows, so I quickly succumbed and we built up a collection of Elmo DVDs (and then Pixar movies, as he got older). 

But we never connected to cable again.  That turns out to be my biggest TV-free "rule" - no cable. The ads and the innudation of variety (without anything you actually want to see on) is too much for me. When we are traveling and there's a TV available, I'll watch (especially the Food Channel), but it reminds me of being an Anthropologist, studying a completely different culture.

Remy no longer wants to see anything on cable television (any TV in public), the advertisements frighten him (he has some phobias about Cars 2 because of a scary ad we saw on TV last year when we were staying at a hotel and since then he's been scared of TVs). We've been learning how to avoid TVs in restaurants this year. He is slowly getting less scared, but it's been a process.

So this is where we are now: Remy is able to watch netflix/ DVDs anytime after 4pm, until bathtime (around 6:15) when we start the wind down to bedtime. The TV/ DVD player he watches shows on is in the guest bedroom, so it isn't out in the open, tempting him. The projector/ stereo system in the living isn't a center of focus (except when something is on), so that isn't tempting either. We really have to want to watch something, to watch something.

Most days he doesn't watch anything, some days he watches a little and some days he watches the entire two hours and usually there's a reason: either a growth spurt, or he isn't feeling well or he needs to process something. I go with the flow.

I take more of an unschooling approach towards media because that is what works best for us. (The after 4pm rule has been in place for about a year and isn't unschooling-style, but it works for us, mostly because of the obsessive tendencies of ASD: if he watches something early in the day, he will obsess about it all day. If he's sick, the rule gets thrown out. Go with the flow.)

Actually, his biggest obsession at the moment is Super Heroes (particularly The Avengers and Batman and Robin) and he has never seen a single Super Hero show/ movie!! And has no desire to see any of them either, not the cartoons or the movies. Thank goodness, because while his dad and I both love superhero movies - I'm looking forward to The Avengers myself - I think those movies are not kid appropriate, so I wouldn't let him watch them even if he begged.

He got into Super Heroes because of Lego (which he got into because we were given a Lego Batman PS2 game, which we played a lot last spring and haven't play since) and magazines/ books. I think probably the kids at school are also into Super Heroes (and not into Dora and Diego, which is Remy's other strong obsession), so I'm happy if this gives him something to relate to other kids with. Mostly, I don't think it has, though. Obsessions tend to be socially awkward (hello, me in school).
Speaking of obsessions, have you hear about LotR Legos???? ZOMG, SO EXCITING. I'll probably buy them for me and hope to entice Remy into playing with them, oh that would be so cool. So freaking cool. I want to read him The Hobbit. Of course he will not be seeing the movies anytime soon, but the books are awesome and he's almost ready, I think. OK, maybe in a few years. Or an abridged version. Or a comic version? He loves comics. We'll see. He's not ready just yet, we've only just started reading chapter books this past week!

Anyway, that's us and screen time right now (other than me and my social media addiction, which is a whole different issue, which I've been working on). Watching TV shows or movies is just a small part of our life. We do a lot of art. A lot of playing with Lego and cars/ trains/ action figures. A lot of reading. A lot of playing outside.

And sometimes, we watch movies or shows.

It's not a perfect system, but it mostly works for us, which is why I'm not participating in screen-free week. If you are, more power to you - and I'll assume you're reading this next week ;-)