July 6, 2009

learning through play

Every parent knows peer pressure.  It overwhelms us, drives us to irrational and often self-destructive behavior.  Like limiting our children to 30 minutes of "screen time" each day.

We have friends (some of whom may be reading this now) who allow their children 30 minutes of screen time a week.  Screen time includes video games, computer games, and even TV.  I believe exemptions are made for computer (homework) and TV (family movies).  Most families we know, including us, allow 30 minutes a day.  We give an hour on weekends.

Most screen time involves Wii FPS games, Wii "Brawl," or Spore on the computer.  But how much is really too much?  My kids have begun making a low-budget movie.  Their equipment is a 6-year-old digital camera with an MPG feature, plus whatever they can turn into costumes and props.  The most successful prop appears to be the garage door, which they film closing when they want to illustrate that the main character has been locked away in a prison camp cell.  They have a plot, but they take turns being the main character and there's not much dialog besides "oh, I've been shot" and such.  This makes the whole thing a little difficult to follow.

BUT today they discovered how to get the files onto the new MacBook and play with them in iMovie.  Ethan is cutting out bits and splicing the segments together.  He already knows how to add background music and sound effects.  Sam, who just turned 10, is actually quite a good cameraman and is learning iMovie and GarageBand, too.

Does this count as "screen time"?  They're creating.  They're learning.  They're developing skills that I think will help them achieve more in the future.  They're honing their ability to think creatively, to identify improvements and try again.  Their work allows us to talk about the craft of storytelling, the craft of moviemaking, even money management.

But they're still huddled over a screen inside during summer vacation for much of the day.

I suppose it's really about balance.  Time spent filming is time outdoors, imagining and playing.  Time not on the computer is time spent reading or playing games.  (The one thing they DON'T do is chores.  Of any kind.  At any time.)  Really it shouldn't be about time in front of the screen.  It should be about time spent in mindless play as opposed to imaginative or active play.

personal writing log
I've been a total slug with writing recently.  OK, only a partial slug.  Work is sucking up all my creative energy.  Still, in June I managed to write ten poems (besides my haiku wednesdays), and some of them were even decent.  That's ahead of my "2 poems a week" goal for 2009.  I hit 1,111 words for Aerin's random complexity challenge.  I even revised one chapter of "Andie's Gold," my MG adventure set in the gold rush.  So I'm on my goals.  But my goals are modest.

Any of you who would like to see my poems, please email me at dudleypj at gmail dot com.  They're posted to a private blog which only Aerin appears to be reading (hi Aerin!  Thanks!).  I'm happy to have more people there; I just don't want them to be considered "published."

Speaking of "published," within the next few weeks a story of mine will appear in the San Francisco Writers Conference anthology.  AND a poem of mine was accepted by a literary journal and is expected to be published I guess towards the end of this year.  It's my second attempt at publishing poetry and first hit.  Doesn't pay much, but I'm thrilled.  I heard the journal's co-editor speak, and I am honored and flattered that she liked my work.


Stephen Parrish said...

Congrats on the pubs.

My 13-year-old daughter spends, in my opinion, way too much time on the computer, but she spends almost all of it writing in collaborative projects with friends. When I scold her, "You're spending too much time online," she answers, "But I'm WRITING, Dad; isn't that what YOU do all day?"

That shuts me up.

jjdebenedictis said...

*flails pom-poms* Congratulations on the publications!

I tell ya, being limited to 30 minutes of screen time, i.e. goofing off rather than working or creating, per day would keeeeel me.

And probably be good for me.

Aniket Thakkar said...


Damn. I missed reporting to Aerin for last month. Will do so tomorrow for sure.

Also, when I try to subscribe to your other blog, it says you do not have permission.

But am able to read the posts. I didn't realize you were still posting there. Will pay them a visit for sure.

And you are absolutely right on striking a balance. My bro. is a complete geek and none of my parents know anything more than how to play Solitaire on the computer. We stayed back in school for some extra computer time by taking permission from our computer profs. Those were the days of PC-486.

And now we are both s/w developers. So its very important that they are exposed to all forms of art that spark their imagination. A little more screen time might just make them a movie director some day!

Am sure you'll make the right call. There is no "perfect parenting" in my book. Everyone tries to do their best.

Precie said...

Double congrats on the publishing!

That movie making dilemma is a rather positive one to have. And it sounds like your kids are well-rounded so the purposeful screen time makes sense. :)

Robin B. said...

Stuff I really wanna talk about here, Pete, but I'm sleepy.

However, I'm never too sleepy to say CONGRATS!!!! on your publishing success. That's some great stuff, there, honey.

bluesugarpoet said...

Limit screen time for my kids? I could limit them to 30 min per day, but that would make me a hypocrit. ;)

congrats on the publishing! Yay! :)

bluesugarpoet said...


PJD said...

Yeah, the hypocrisy of being on the computer all day (for work, writing, and socializing) and then limiting the boys' screen time does get to me. But, like the guilt of not doing yardwork... I get over it.

Aniket, the feed for private blogs does not, apparently, work. Sylvia asked for an email list for when I post something new; maybe I'll put one together. And good for you for staying extra in school for the computer time. But 486es? High tech! TRS-80 was state of the art for me in high school.

And thanks, all, for the congrats on the acceptances!

Anonymous said...

When you have a special needs kid, all those parenting "shoulds" quickly go by the wayside. When Bug came along, we were so used to screen time being a necessary part of the Bear's life, we let her have as much as she wanted - to find out she mostly wants to be outside in the sandbox. We've learned to let each of them be who they are, and so far it's kept us all sane and alive...which is my only goal, at the end of the day.

pacatrue said...

We go with the amorphous balance approach. Is he doing other stuff too? And leave it at that.

Congrats as well on the poetry!