Sep 28

I have a book on my family room book shelf.  It’s called Grand Theft Childhood.  It’s been sitting there for, well, at least four years.  Maybe more (do they still even make the video game Grand Theft Auto?)  And I feel guilty every time I look at, or rather, steal glances at it when I’m watching TV.  That’s because I’ve never read it. 

When I bought it at the book store, I was bursting with haughty self-righteousness that my boys would never have a video game console or a DS Nintendo.  We would live in our bubble of digital-free entertainment (except for the TV, of course, ’cause who can live without that?)  and wholesome family fun… board games, hide and seek, LEGO, blah blah blah.  I bought the book because I agreed that video games were the blight of the North American family!

But then I couldn’t read it.  Because I saw my boys progress from TVO kids-watching angels to internet surfing gamers.  Too cool to go to Nick jr anymore.  I was going to read it right around then, planning to read it.  Then I bought them a Leapster.  Aren’t they educational? 

I didn’t read it then.  Nor did I read it when all three of them sang a chorus of pleas for DS Nintendo.  And I had to admit… The Leapster looked pretty sad compared to a DS Nintendo.  And, really, what educational value was in a Leapster that wasn’t in a DS?   They were both equal in their lack of value, I reasoned.  So, the DS’s went under the Christmas tree that year (Thanks Santa!!)

I knew I had to read Grand Theft Childhood.  It would remind me that my family was on a slippery slope.  I even thought I should start reading it after we bought the kids a Wii for Christmas two years ago.  But why would I need to be reminded that my kids are going to academic, mental, and emotional hell because they play video games?  Are they?  Really?

No.  I don’t really believe that kids who play video games are destined to an unfulfilled life… or whatever that book on my shelf claims (I wouldn’t know.)  Although I have my days of regret that I invited more animated screens into our household, I have finally realized that it’s better to accept that video games and the digital world is as much a part of our society as soda pop and chips than continually fight against it (ok, my boys are consummate beggars, too.)  Is it all a form of junk food? Yes.  But, in moderation, it’s not so bad. 

I’ll never read that book.  Instinctively, I know that video games are bad.  Well, pretty bad (not that bad.)  That’s why I get that clenched feeling in my stomach when they’ve been playing for more than an hour in the basement as the sun shines outside.  Catch me on a day like that, and you can quote me screeching at my kids as they ignore my calls to shut it off: “Video games are the blight of our society!”

Image: Arvind Balaraman /


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Changes to Porridge Report

Sep 27

Wow.  I can’t believe I haven’t posted since June!  I have some good excuses… I’m launching my kids’ chapter book, Danny in a Newfangled World, this fall.  That web site has gotten more of my attention this summer.  And, I’ve been working on a new non-fiction book for parents on how to survive a road trip with kids.  And, just to add more work to my pile, I created a blog to go with that book!  Feel free to check that out if you plan in heading on a road trip, it’s .

This blog, which I began a few years ago as an experiment will be undergoing a change over the next week.  It will continue to concentrate on issues surrounding the media and how it affects kids and families.  However, there will be a new, personal focus.  I will be chronicling my daily struggle with my three boys around screen time.  Every parent knows what that means.

Remember the days when all we had to do was fight with our kids about tv shows?  There was only one thing to turn off back then (way back when my ten year old was just a little toddler.)  Now, I have three boys and many, many more screens to ask them to turn off.

  • TV
  • Wii
  • Two computers (because they steal time on my laptop when I’m not looking)
  • DS Nintendo (three of them)
  • iPod

I know there’s gotta be thousands of mothers and fathers struggling along with me as they battle their kids to shut off a screen and GET out and PLAY.  I’m so looking forward to starting this!  You can follow my tweets, too at

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