The challenge of “Family TV Time”

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Acorn DisclosureWith summer comes more free time, and for us, admittedly, that means more screen time for all of us. We get away from screens, too, camping, traveling, Max goes to day camps… but we do, more often than not, end up lazing in front of the TV at the end of the day, not wanting to move too much because OMG hot.

We're “cord cutters,” in that we ditched cable television three years ago when we moved to this house; this was a purely financial decision for us. We were paying close to $200 a month for an extended cable package and DSL internet. When we moved, we we upgraded the internet speed and pay $36 a month for it as a standalone service, and then stream our entertainment from Netflix, Amazon, and Hulu, for a total of $23 a month. (I would pay for Amazon Prime even without the streaming, so I don't count that in the monthly fees for our media consumption.) While sometimes we do miss sports coverage, we can pretty easily find a friend to invite us over to watch the game, or we'll head to a restaurant that's showing it.

But I digress.


We are raising Max in a world of on-demand shows and a digital media library with hundreds of options. So when it comes time to family TV time, it should be simple, but it never is. I'm not talking about movie night; it's pretty easy to find a movie we can all enjoy, because Star Wars, but the challenge is those “It's a half hour til bedtime, so let's veg in front of the TV a little bit before bed/shower/toothbrushing”

Have you ever tried to democratically choose a television show with a 7 year old? It basically comes down to this:



When Max was two, he watched Dora and Caillou, then moved on to Thomas. At four, it was Chuck the Truck. Spongebob made a brief appearance during kindergarten. Finally, at six, he found Phineas and Ferb. Finally a show that didn't make me want to pull my hair out three minutes in. It was smart and funny and just weird enough to keep everyone interested.

And now I talk about Phineas and Ferb in the past tense because it went off the air a couple of weeks ago. I understand it's been a good run, and all good things must come to an end, but now we're left with watching the same four seasons on Netflix. Over and over and over again.

I honestly don't understand why it's so hard to create fun, family-friendly TV shows. It's been done once, it can be done again. Something smart, funny, engaging… the occasional fart joke is fine, but there's so much more to comedy than that! Programming doesn't have to be “educational” for them to learn something; the power of imagination, of making up their own worlds.

Even more importantly, the memories that are made when a family settles in to watch something together; my childhood has Little House on the Prairie, Full House, and Family Matters. What does Max's have? We need more programming for FAMILIES.

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