Want Your Kids to Turn off the Screen? Then Listen

Sep 12

Last night my 12-year-old son asked if he could stay up later than his two younger brothers to watch TV with me and his dad. Since he’d just come home from hockey (later than usual), I said yes. It would be nice to share some personal time with our oldest son. No sooner had I sat on the couch to start my DVR recording of Master Chef, he walks in with his iPod in his hand and earphones on his head.

“Whoa,” I set the remote control down. “I thought we were watching TV together?” I asked. Then repeated it. Louder. He had the volume up too high to hear me the first time.

He guffawed. “What difference does it make? We’re both watching screens, Mom.” Yes, he had a point. I couldn’t argue that, could I? Visions of sitting with my family watching Different Strokes and The A-Team paraded through my mind. Those were some good memories. Sure, we shushed eachother when the commercials ended, but still, we laughed together and shared the same appreciation for one-line quips that only a 1980′s sitcom can deliver (Whatchoo talkin’ bout Mista D?) That counted for something. Didn’t it?

I insisted he turn off his personal screen and watch Master Chef with me, despite my reservations whether this could really be considered quality family time. He groaned his consent and tossed his electronics aside. Then he took me by surprise. He started talking. Like, really talking. I held the remote in my hand, ready to press PLAY. Yet as my son continued to talk I realized what an amazing opportunity I would be squandering if I silenced his chatter with my TV program. You see, 12-year-old boys aren’t a particularly chatty bunch.

He talked about what happened during school that day, sharing information about a new student in his grade who has Asperger’s Syndrome. He’d never heard of that before, he explained. And continued to describe what he’d learned about this condition. I kept the show on PAUSE and listened intently to everything he said. I was amazed by his compassion and interest in this new student. And I was eager to let him express his intrigue and concern about her. We had an amazing conversation. I was happy to let my TV show wait.

My husband eventually joined us in the family room and started the TV show while we continued our conversation (he, understandably, fell into the habit of just turning on the screen without thinking).

As our conversation drew to a close, I marvelled at how freely my son chatted with me. (This is not a daily occurrence.) The night , however, could have played out very differently if either of us had tuned into our own screen.

Instead, he talked. Instead, I listened. If that’s a by-product of shared screen time, then I’m going to insist on doing it more often.

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Mothers Day Reminds Us Why Paper Will Never Be Replaced by Digital

May 13

Nothing says Happy Mother’s Day like a child’s artwork made by their own hands.

This would not mean as much to me if it was made digitally

From my 10-year-old

Made with love by my 8-year-old


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Video Round Up: Call of Duty Advertisements

May 12

Today’s videos feature advertisements for the wildly popular video game, Call of Duty by Activision. My boys have begged for this violent video game countless times and, so far, I’ve not allowed it. Many of their friends, from ages 7 to 12, own and play the game regularly (even though it is rated M for Mature).

The following trailers for Call of Duty are brilliantly designed ads and their violent nature clearly indicate why Call of Duty is a Mature-rated game. I can see why millions of adult gamers are enticed by this game. Unfortunately, I can also see the allure for boys – weapons, shooting, explosions, soldiers. For now, though, my kids will have to make do with Mario.

The first two videos are both for the Call of Duty Black Ops 2

Creepy, huh? Hard to believe that this is just an ad, and not a true documentary (although it sure sounds believable).

This next celebrity-studded video is a TV commercial for Call of Duty: Black Ops, titled “There’s a soldier in all of us”

The final video is for Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3, titled “The Vet and the n00b”

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It’s Friday! Let the Kids Play Video Games

May 11

Everyone feels relieved when the No Video Game Rule is lifted Friday afternoon. I can relax by my laptop, or on a sunny day like today, on my deck sipping a glass of wine. The kids can play to their heart’s content without worrying about any mom-induced consequences.

So go ahead, kids. Play.

It's Friday, boys. Go for it!


Or just watch a YouTube video...


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May 10

We all know of the many actions we can take to make the world a better place: hold the door open for someone else, recycle your garbage, volunteer for a charitable cause. The list is infinite, in fact. Yet, as our society migrates to the web, many of us spend almost as much time online as we do in the “real world.” And, increasingly we recognize that online actions can be just as devastating or rewarding to individuals as those actions made in the physical world.

As the first generation of children grows up immersed in the digital culture, parents and society in general, need to consider ways to bring the same level of care in teaching kids social responsibility and kindness in real life to their online life. By creating a set of standards based on our real life knowledge, we can provide kids a map for navigating the internet with much needed compassion and responsibility.

Here are ten ways we can start to build a better internet for both ourselves, and our kids:

  1. Be respectful when you comment. There is nothing wrong with feeling passionate or angered by a post, but insults and derogatory phrases should stay out of it.
  2. Before posting a questionable video or photo of your friend, tell him your intentions, and respect his wishes if he asks you not to. Everyone makes mistakes and just because it happens to get caught on camera, it doesn’t mean that person should suffer its infinite presence online.
  3. Make an effort to post or message at least one compliment or uplifting thought every day on another person’s social media page (be it Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, or a blog).
  4. When you read a mean or derogatory post about a person you know, defend him or her by either trying to have the post erased or by posting a kind comment to offset it.
  5. Every day, the internet is offering an increasing number of opportunities to educate kids, adults, families in almost every facet of academia and society. Seek them out. Expose yourself and your kids to the diversity of this world in a way that was simply not possible only five years ago.
  6. Set a rule for yourself to never post anything hurtful on your Facebook page. Ever.
  7. Refrain from visiting sites that encourage vices or addictions, (you know the ones).
  8. When you read an article that you really enjoy, leave a comment! That will encourage the site’s author to publish more similar pieces.
  9. Share your personal positive experiences, perspectives, or stories by starting your own blog on a theme near and dear to your heart. While we can’t prevent detestable content from being published online, we can do our best to overpower it by publishing even more “good” content.
  10. Seek websites that offer fulfilling advice or uplifting content and make an effort to visit them regularly for inspiration and positive reinforcement.



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May 09

Giving starts at home and comes in many forms.

We all need a good kick in the pants sometimes to remind us of what is truly important in this world. I got one today when I attended a tour of the new Ronald McDonald House® in Toronto.  If you’re not familiar with this organization, its very worthy mission is to provide a home away from home for seriously ill children and their families who require treatment in a Toronto hospital. I could easily provide a list of all the details that make this beautiful new Toronto house a wonderful place of comfort and refuge for families struggling with the emotional and physical challenges of treating a very sick child. In fact, I recommend you check out their website to see just how amazing this organization is. But what was more impressive than the building (which, believe me , is hard to beat) is the commitment of all the people working to ease the suffering of the families.

I was especially inspired by the presentations at the conclusion of the tour, which featured a video interview with Craig Kielburger and a live talk by Michael Pinball Clemons, that challenged me to pursue every opportunity to give of myself to those in need. Because the theme of the event was Celebration of Mothers, they spoke passionately about the importance of role modelling philanthropy for our children – the single most significant way to instil in kids a natural desire to give with empathy and kindness.

As Clemons so poignantly explained: “I’d rather see a sermon than hear one.”

Which brings me back to that kick in the pants. (I received my first kick last week with the tragic passing of a friend who was a pillar of kindness in our community). The kick said something like: Get off your laptop tapping butt and help the world – whether it’s a community event, a regular volunteer commitment, or visiting your grandma in her nursing home – stop thinking about it. Just do it. And, stop doing that thing that you do so well – making excuses.

Today (which happens to be my 40th birthday), I pledge to give more. Whether it’s giving big or giving small, doing it loud or doing it silently, helping a neighbour or helping a stranger, spreading good digitally or spreading it personally. The small voice in my head that has been whispering to do more will no longer be ignored as I step into the newest decade of my life.

This is my commitment. Are you willing to join me?



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