Adventures in Ethics and Science

Earlier this week, the younger Free-Ride offspring “made a bad decision” about time utilization at the after school program, electing to play outside and do a project before doing homework, meaning the homework was still unfinished when I arrived to fetch the sprogs.

The standard consequence for this is, apparently, one of the greatest horrors that can be visited upon a third grader: the loss of screen-time (which in the Free-Ride household covers television, computers, and hand-held game systems).

Through angry tears, the younger Free-Ride offspring responded to this travesty thusly:

Younger Free-Ride offspring: This is horrible! This will make three days in a row with no screen-time!

Dr. Free-Ride: Child, you’ll survive. Generations of children grew up without screens at all, so you can make it through three days.

Younger Free-Ride offspring: But I want to watch TV.

Dr. Free-Ride: Mmm-hmm, and the hope is that this will help you remember to use your time wisely.

Younger Free-Ride offspring: No, I need to watch TV!

Dr. Free-Ride: Oh really?

Younger Free-Ride offspring: Watching TV is one of my hobbies! If I don’t do it regularly, I’ll get rusty!

Dr. Free-Ride: What?

Younger Free-Ride offspring: Without practice, I’ll forget how to use the remote or change channels.

Dr. Free-Ride: The horror! You might end up watching a Congressional debate!

Younger Free-Ride offspring: Or South Park!

(By this point even the offended sprog was cracking a smile.)

Dr. Free-Ride: This all seems kind of … improbable. I have this sense that television watching is the kind of activity people can fall right back into even if they haven’t done it in a long time, no need for practice or stretches or anything like that.

Younger Free-Ride offspring: Really, there are lots of buttons on the remote. I could forget where the mute button is, or forget that I’m supposed to mute the commercials.

Dr. Free-Ride: Not in a matter of days. And not if you know what’s good for you.

Younger Free-Ride offspring: If I knew that, my homework would probably be done already.

* * * * *

Being a science-minded child, the younger Free-Ride offspring is convinced that there must be some research out there that bears on whether you can “get rusty” at watching television, and would welcome pointers to papers that report the findings of such research.

Dr. Free-Ride is fairly confident that even if the evidence indicates that one can “get rusty” at watching television, she can make the case that the younger Free-Ride offspring’s interest in not losing this knack is less important than other interests, like mastering the skills being taught in school, or avoiding stupid fights with parents about homework.

Dr. Free-Ride is less confident that the younger Free-Ride offspring will be persuaded by this argument.

Comments

  1. #1 "GrrlScientist"
    March 26, 2010

    well, there are a couple problems as i see this. first, hand exercises are important to maintain the general health of one’s hands. it is possible that clicking the channel changer could provide this. on the other hand, there’s the “surfer d00d” channel surfing problem where many repetitive motions, such as channel surfing, can damage one’s hands so that sprog-the-younger cannot use the channel changer at all because s/he has to wear hand braces.

    i have never had a television so i can say that the kid has a point: it does take practice to get really good at parking your ass in front of the b00b tube for hours or days at a stretch. i’ve never mastered the art, but i am always afraid this ability will somehow sneak up on me when i least expect it and transform me into an oversized potato, complete with hundreds of staring eyes trained on the flickering screen while sitting helplessly on the couch, wearing hand braces, unable to change channels or turn off the tv and escape.

  2. #2 The Perky Skeptic
    March 26, 2010

    This… is brilliant. :) I get SO tired of stupid fights with my EXTREMELY OCD Asperger kid that it just exhausts me. Sometimes I think parenting has given me PTSD, and other times I think I probably just need a nap. ;) Thus, it is great, so great to hear this story of sticking to your guns with humor and love. :)

  3. #3 becca
    March 26, 2010

    I’ve gotta say, Younger Sprog is right. When you have ridiculous cable service 1 and you switch to ridiculous cable service 2, you forget how to change the channels. The “up and down” buttons just don’t work (you have to go to “guide” or “menu” or who knows what). As someone who goes back and forth between Carebear’s house with ridiculous cable service 2 to ridiculous cable service 1 at home, I do honestly forget sometimes. As does Carebear.

    There is a yet more important consideration. I was recently at a party and somebody wanted to turn on the Olympics (on any of three ESPN channels- you’d think it’d be easy with so many targets). The hapless individual kept accidentally pushing the rapid-to-pay-per-view button that allows watching of “adult” shows for an exorbitant fee. Do you younger sprog to be visiting a friend, attempting to turn on NOVA scienceNow with Neil deGrasse Tyson, and instead only being able to find “Screwing the neighbors wife 3″?????

  4. #4 Mike Olson
    March 26, 2010

    I like the blanket approach of screen time. Covers everything without any exceptions.

  5. #5 Tech Mom
    March 26, 2010

    Not only do I love hearing about other parents who set limits and stick to them, I also am thrilled to hear that ours is not the only household the mutes all the commercials! My 10-year-old is already talking back to them and it is music to my ears. ;-)

  6. #6 becca
    March 26, 2010

    I was very, very confused when I learned that not all people argue with the television. Muting the commercials is the saner choice.

  7. #7 changcho
    March 27, 2010

    Ha, that definitely sounds like the argument of a (smart) 3rd grader! I also like your concept of ‘screen-time.

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