As a young boy growing up I thought my parents had some really strange rules. One that I thought was completely weird and unnecessary was my mother’s rule that we were only allowed 10 hours of TV time a week. Though I fought it tooth and nail at the time, the 10-hour-a-week rule had some really positive effects. My brother and I played outside more. We read books. We became really good a negotiating when we figured out we could squeeze in one or two more shows a week by turning off the TV for commercials… We also became unaware of all the cool stuff that was marketed to kids and teens because we didn’t see the commercials.
I look back now and I’m kind of thankful that my mom imposed some limits on our TV consumption. It helped round me out, I discovered my imagination and found out that I enjoyed reading, writing, sports and other things. Her tenacity to stick to the 10 hours a week rule really shaped my character in a positive way. At the time I argued against setting limits on Media consumption… Today as a Dad with children of my own and even more media influences than ever before I find myself echoing the wisdom of limiting the influence of media.
Please understand what I’m saying. I’m not saying that media is bad. I’m saying too much media is not good and limits a child’s capacity and desire for other satisfying and healthy influences. It’s like dessert, it’s a self-indulgence. And like dessert, media is best balanced out by other influences like family time, reading, sports, church, etc.
So here is the question: When it comes to you and your family how much time do you spend in virtual world activities (facebook, video games, television, etc.) versus real world activities (family time, reading, church, sports, etc.)? If you want a simple tool to help you calculate how much time you are your kids are spending in each world, check out the free Media-Diet-Calculator tool produced by ishinelive.com.
What is a healthy balance between virtual world activities and real world activities? We’re still working on an answer for our family, but I know this… after taking a glance at my personal numbers on the Media-Diet-Calculator I’ve determined that I need to spend even less time in the virtual world and more time engaging in the real world with my family and others.
What do you think? How much time in the virtual world is healthy? When does it become unhealthy to be engaged in video games, etc? What do you and your family do to limit or be disciplined in how you use virtual world technologies?