I don't know about you, but I'm a touch conflicted when it comes to screen time. On one hand we have so-called experts bleating on about how bad television and computer games are for kids. On the other, the more interactive nature of today's kids shows—not to mention all the genius games and apps out there—provide valuable learning tools.
But what about the whole childhood obesity can of worms? I want my child to be technologically savvy, but not at the risk of becoming a couch potato. In order to shed some light on this muddled topic, I turned to someone at the very heart of kids television—the Creative Head of CBC Children's and Youth Programming, Kim Wilson.
"We don't target our shows to kids under two," says Wilson matter-of-factly. "We know that kids watch. We have faith in parents, I guess. Each parent has their own guidelines, whether it's two hours' programming a day on all screens or an hour on TV and an hour on screen... Nobody is a super parent. I'm a parent too, and sometimes I have to make dinner or finish a report. It ultimately is about a healthy mix." Phew, that's a relief.
If you haven't tuned in lately, you should. CBC Kids is doing some pretty innovative stuff, particularly with its Augmented Reality (AR) project. The interactive game uses webcam technology and is intended for parents to play at home with their young children. Rolled out last year, the first game, Lion's Letter Lab, enlists a cute lion to teach letter tracing skills.
"We know how beneficial it is for kids learning to be doing stuff with their parents," says Wilson. "And kids want to be with their parents as much as they can, right? So if parents play together with their kids, their confidence is boosted, their learning is boosted."
Technology, adds Wilson, isn't bad if you use it in the right way. And the CBC has clearly spent a lot of time figuring out how to do just that. She hopes the new site will enhance a family's activity time together and act as a springboard for other types of activities—that playing the lunar game online, let's say, leads to pretending to be astronauts in the backyard...
While learning is obviously important, fun is crucial. Wilson insists that what sets the CBC apart from other public broadcasters is their holistic approach to kids television. "[Our approach] is cognitive, but it's also social, emotional, physical, and creative. Kids learn best when they're laughing. Making entertaining programming has to be the cornerstone [of programming], regardless of those other principles."
And kids are more inclined to stay active when engaged with a script. The interactive nature of shows like Bo on the Go ensures that kids get on their feet and stay there. In order to keep her 'energy bracelet' lit, Bo relies on the actions and movement of viewers at home. I recently tested out the theory on my three-year-old son, and watched him run through a field of roosters.
So much for couch potatoes. Think it's high time this yummy mummy got busy with Bo, too.
I did the best possible thing for my son recently: I took off. In the spirit of absence making the heart grow, yada yada, my husband and I fled to the backcountry for a few nights sans enfant. My 3 year old also vacationed, many miles away, with his grandparents.
Parenting is littered with paradox. In an age that preaches about the virtues of staying attached to children, I decided to become detached.
On one hand, endorsements from the likes of TIME magazine and our very own Alanis Morrisette tell us that infants should remain affixed, tentacle-like, to their mothers for as long as possible. In the next breath, we are warned against smothering our children by hovering over them, chopper-style.
(Imagine the jolt of confusion for the child in question. One day he's his mom's extra appendage; the next, he's being practically booted out the front door to play unsupervised in some park.)
I'm not a Buddhist by any stretch, yet I do believe that moderation in all things is the way to go. It was with this tenet in mind that I sent off my son for the best of a week while this self-professed city slicker took to the country.
On the back of kitchen renos, overseas guests and the incumbent red tape that an autism diagnosis entails, my reserves were dwindling dangerously low. Add to the above the fact that I hadn't taken a day off—in a year. Something had to give, and for once it wasn't going to be me.
So for my son's sake, and my own, I sent him away. Sure, I missed him. He asked for me daily, and whined some, but never to the point where he became overly distressed by my absence. I won't always be there for him. He needs to learn early on that he can cope—dare I say, even thrive—without me.
Not only did this trip provide me with the outdoorsy tonic—canoeing, hiking, lake swimming—I needed after a stressful year, it also provided him with the safe environment he needed in which to let go just a bit.
Needless to say, the reunion was sweet. My hubby and I were treated to the most wonderful greeting. It was nice to genuinely miss my son, and vice-versa. Already we are all looking forward to another vacation... Next year.
How do you 'escape' your family? Do you feel guilty leaving your children behind?