Why We Chose a Media Lite Diet for our Family

IMG_6516I remember right after our daughter was born my husband and myself were filled with so much bliss. We were so excited to be a family of three. Our lives were never going to be the same. This also meant that as we spent every second of the day with her we realized that TV might not be the best thing to have on around her. That is when we sat down together to talk about the bigger picture: How we wanted to raise our kids in relation to media and technology. The main issue that we were grappling with at the time was simply at what age do we want her to see TV and eventually play on our mobile devices, computers, etc.? She was a newborn, but we knew that she would grow quickly and have the potential to be exposed to so much at such an early age. Simply put, we needed to figure out what our stance on media was going to be for our family. Our decision. Wait on TV all together and go media lite.

Now to give you some background about me, as an undergraduate at UC Santa Barbara I helped conduct research for the National Television Violence Study. Before grad school I worked in the Communication Lab at UC Santa Barbara to help with other media studies that looked at sex in television and how children are portrayed in the news. I currently teach media literacy and interpersonal communication at Santa Barbara City College. So I am well aware of the positive and negative impacts media has on our society.

SOME RESEARCH WORTHY OF READING/VIEWING

The average child spends a lot of time consuming media messages on a daily basis. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics website on media and children, “Today’s children are spending an average of seven hours a day on entertainment media, including televisions, computers, phones and other electronic devices.” For this reason, they recommend that parents supervise their children’s media consumption.

In a TED TALK about children and media consumption, Dimitri Christakis, Pediatrician and Director for the Center for Child Health, Behavior and Development in Seattle Washington makes the following recommendations in regards to media and the young child:

  1. Early Childhood for children is critical for their development.

Because of this, Dr. Christakis finds that not all screen time is created equally. That educational TV can be beneficial.

  1. Children need more real time play, less fast paced media

Dr. Christakis points out that a child’s brain develops rapidly during their first years of life. Young children learn best by interacting with people, not screens.

According to commonsensemedia.org the media environment and behaviors of children eight and under have changed. Now more than ever they are growing up mobile. This especially becomes important when income level and mobile devices are at play. It seems that higher income families are more likely to show educational content on mobile devices than low-income kids do.

There is even research out there that suggests because Kids are spending more time than ever in front of screens, it may be inhibiting their ability to recognize emotions.

So, in a nutshell, kids spend a lot of time in front of media, not all media is created equal and some good old-fashioned face-to-face interaction is still valuable.

HOW WE BECAME MEDIA LITE

Now, first let me say that what we have decided for our family might not be for everyone. We have chosen to limit media by simply not having a TV in our household. However, we do have computers, an ipad and mobile devices and ouIMG_6625r kids definitely see images on these screens. We also consume other non-electronic media like books, magazines and newspapers. Sure, they occasionally might watch a surfing competition with their dad or “how to make a piecrust” on You Tube” with me, but we don’t make media a main part of the their daily diet. That is why I guess you could say our kids our consuming “media lite diet.”

As our children age (our daughter is now seven and we have a son who is four) I imagine we will introduce more and more media as we see fit for them developmentally. But right now, we feel good with their limited consumption.

As a parent who is concerned about media’s impact on our children and our society, here are some tips (inspired by the American Academy of Pediatrics) that can help families become media lite:

  1. Limit Screen time

When your kids are exposed to media, be mindful of how much time they are spending daily on the screen and what they are viewing. Not all media is created equall. Think about what is best for you and your family. Make a plan for what your minimum and maximum time allowed would be and what content is appropriate. Educational? Entertainment? News?

  1. Teach Media Literacy

When viewing media, watch it with your kids so that you can help guide your kid’s media experience. Parents can put questionable content into context and teach kids about media literacy.IMG_6670

  1. Make books and other non-electronic forms of media a priority

Make sure to take the time to turn off the TV, put down the mobile device, etc. and just enjoy the art of storytelling through books, magazines, newspapers and even board games with your children. Create zones in your house that are technology free.

  1. Get kids outside in nature

Nature allows kids to experience all of their senses. So get them outside to play and use their imagination on a daily basis, especially if screen time is a normal part of their daily life.

++++++++++++

Onward, Emma

The Village

I recently discovered The Village Magazine through a friend of mine, who is a member of my attachment parenting group, Mamatoto Santa Barbara. After browsing the magazine’s site, I became quite intrigued and begin to realize how much the magazine and its mission resonates with who I’ve become since the beginning of motherhood.

Have you ever missed the community you never had? Have you ever wished you lived in closer proximity to your loved ones, and I mean closer as in a literal stone’s throw? I have – often. It may have something to do with losing my mom a few years before my daughter was born, with whom I shared a wonderfully deep relationship. Or maybe it’s due to the intense camraderie I feel towards other mothers of all ages since having my own. Regardless, after stumbling upon this post, I feel the need to share. Here is my favorite Journal post from The Village so far – I hope you enjoy it as much as I did:

-Kristin

…BUT FOR TODAY

March 16, 2015

Every day I go about my life: drive my children to and fro, make breakfast, lunch and dinner, and change my baby’s diapers in my four-walled house,  while the world buzzes around me,  busy and fast. My little plays on the floor and I watch him pluck toy after toy out of the large box in the corner of the room, and although my life is rich with many things, I think about you because I miss the village.

I miss the village that I never had. The one with mothers doing the washing side by side, clucking and laughing hysterically, tired in body but quick in spirit. We’d know each other so well: annoying one another from time to time, but never staying mad long, because the truth is, we need each other.

The children would wake up early, as they tend to, and run outside, finding each other amongst the tall trees. They’d disappear into the field and forest for a day of play as we’d start our sacred work. We’d knead bread side by side, the littles at our feet, breasts, on our backs and in our arms. It would be impossible to tell whose children belonged to whom — we’d all attend to the group of toddling wee ones, check on the deeply breathing babies, wave little hands off of our floured table, pinch cheeks and kiss boo-boos.

The days would be full of conversation as we expertly flexed a muscle that has since gone weak: the art of listening. Quiet empathy in lieu of passive judgement, and when called for, gentle, sincere advice. In our village, our members are our estate,  and we build them up.

We’d laugh — too much and never enough at the same time. Whether it be stifled giggles overflowing out of covered mouths like a pot of water bubbling over or donkey brays loud enough to wake the children, we’d be skilled at finding the joy in the mundane.

We’d cry — never alone, but shoulder to shoulder over unborn children gone too soon,  or men who’d changed their minds. We’d stitch back the frayed edges of each other’s lives the best we could, wiping the tears off of each other’s cheeks. If any of us became lost in the darkness, we’d journey into the depths of her heart and pull her body back to shore.

When mealtime came, we’d set the food out on long tables and the children would eat happily and hungrily, as they tend to when in the company of other small people. They’d talk about their adventures and, to their exaggerated disappointment, we’d make them take the younger children this time to teach them what we already know: we exist for each other.

When one of us was feeling sick or needed extra rest from a long night up with a child, we’d swoop in and tend to her children as we would our own, and for as long as necessary — no need to even ask. She would drift off to a healing sleep with full confidence. We’d want her to be well because we’d know that we’re only as strong as our weakest member — and not only that, we’d love her, not with the sappy love of greeting cards, but with an appreciative love that has full knowledge of how her colors add to our patchwork.

You’d know me,  and I’d know you. I’d know your children, and you’d know mine. Not just on a surface level — favorite foods, games and such — but real, true knowledge of the soul that flickers behind their eyes. I’d trust them in your arms just as much as I’d trust them in mine. They’d respect you,  and heed your “no.”

As our children grew up and out, and our skin went paper thin, we’d keep making bread, sharing it with tea, stories of beautiful grandchildren, and how things used to be.

I miss that village of mothers that I’ve never had. The one we traded for homes that, despite being a stone’s throw, feel miles apart from each other. The one we traded for locked front doors, blinking devices and afternoons alone on the floor playing one-on-one with our little ones.

What gives me hope is,  as I look at you from across the park with your own child in tow playing in her own corner of the sandbox, I can tell from your curious glance and shy smile that you miss it, too.

Maybe we’ll have it again. But for today, I’ll invite you and your little one over for tea, and maybe bread.

-Anonymous

If imitation is the highest form of flattery…

My daughter, during a trip to Trader Joe’s during which she insisted on carrying her Baby Guy in a “moby” wrap. She’s done this several times and each time we get lots of comments, the likes of “how cute!”, “omg, she’s carrying her baby in a wrap!”, etc. The simple fact that so many people recognize this method of moving the baby around is telling of our city, and maybe our time…? This, for me, was the preferred method of transporting my daughter to and fro for quite a while: around the house, in the garden, from the car to the store – you get the idea. All the research I did told me that carrying the baby close to you, in a carrier or wrap, was a common tool of an attachment parent. It’s supposed to help with the bonding process, too, of both parents to baby. Needless to say, the wrap and carrier were staples in our House of Infant.
-Kristin

attachment parenting at its best

Information overload

Gertrude Stein once said, “Everybody gets so much information all day long that they lose their common sense.” I found myself wondering what this may look like in today’s digital world. My mind immediately led me to the day I witnessed two teenage boys walking side by side, both wearing headphones connected to a digital device – and not saying a word to each other. Did one even know that the other was there? Ten years ago, common sense would tell us that these two boys walking side by side were buddies who enjoy each other’s company. Today, however, this particular act is more difficult to decipher. Did these two boys lose, albeit temporarily, their ability to have a cohesive conversation with each other? Luckily, being a secondary school teacher, I know there is still hope. I get it. Teenagers need a space to call their own, to proclaim/demonstrate their identity. Today’s spaces often times, just look different. The space that these two may have been occupying was their own music (or podcast?)and while spending time with their friend, they didn’t necessarily feel it was important to share what they were listening to, with anyone.

How does this relate to ambitionista? Well, I can’t speak for Emma, but I often find my inspiration for creation and parenting amongst all of this information – on mommy and sewing blogs, mostly, but in general, online. I like to think this information is strengthening my common sense; encouraging me to cultivate my relationships and my judgment of situations. This is all assuming I can keep myself from clicking too often on unrelated items like fashion and hair. What do you, dear ambitionista reader, think? What does all this information do to your common sense?

-Kristin