What M does on the computer: homework, incessant email and IM with friends, read People and Go Fug Yourself, listen to music on YouTube, play endless Stardoll.
What E does on the computer: listen to music on iTunes (mainly Hairspray soundtrack), play games (varieties of solitaire, checkers, chess), Playhouse Disney and regular Disney, occasionally PBSKids (used to do a lot of Webkinz, but eventually forgot about it, and then her Webkin expired--now there's a topic for a blog post...)
What S does on the computer: music (downloading, uploading, ordering, guitar tabs, GarageBand, numerous blogs I've never heard of), food (Epicurious, blogs, etc.), email, news, work.
What I do on the computer: work, email, blog, read blogs, NY Times, People, Jezebel, Weboggle, google everyone I encounter.
There are currently three laptops. My lemon, which lives on the chair in the living room, on the dining room table, or in my bag. My old dying laptop which is on the desk in the dining room, used by the girls. S's new MacBook which alternates between kitchen and dining room tables.
For a long time, the screen time rule has been half an hour per girl, OK to share, computer or TV. Homework doesn't count. But does listening to music count? How about listening to YouTube videos while playing Stardoll? Listening to the Hairspray soundtrack, yet again, while dancing? What about listening to the Hairspray soundtrack, yet again, while staring at the playlist? Checking email? IMing? When I was 12, I would talk on the phone for two hours, but it wasn't screen time. Is IMing the equivalent of talking on the phone or PlayhouseDisney?
Let's leave television out of this. There isn't a lot of television these days, and what there is is usually the Hairspray DVD, yet again. Anyway, it's easy to clock half an hour of television.
I spend a lot of time grumpily telling people to get off computers. But I spend a lot of time on computers, often grumpily, not because I have to be on the computer, though often I do, but because I am annoyed with myself for being on the computer. Why? Why do I tell myself that I won't check email till bedtime, and do it anyway? Like telling myself I won't eat any more chips, and doing it anyway. Better to just eat as many chips as I want and then stop.
In summer, we go bike riding and to the pond and the playground. We go for walks and to play hide-and-seek in the graveyard. The girls play in the driveway for hours. But it's winter.
The last two nights we've played Rat-a-Tat-Cat. This evening we had a girls reading party in the bed. And did homework, listened to Hairspray, sent emails, and blogged on the computer.
We are, in general, pretty lax when it comes to restriction. Our kids listen to gangsta rap and Lily Allen. We give them sips of wine and beer and, last night, Bailey's. They watch PG-13 movies and read whatever they want. Violence isn't so much part of our lives, culturally or actually, so that's not a worry, and they, especially M, tend to self-censor, so we tend toward freedom.
And yet the computer brings all my latent Puritanism to the surface. Why?
I'm thinking maybe we should try abandoning screen time limits. I wonder what would happen.