UPDATE: I’ve extended the commenting donation to Crickett’s Answer of $1 per daily comment until Friday January 21st.
I received an email last Thursday from a CNN producer, wondering if I would be willing to talk on-camera with my family about how we set digital limits for our children and make efforts to unplug as a family.
My husband Chris and I discussed it and thought it was a good idea. We agreed that we might be a good family to interview. The CNN team wanted to come to our home on Friday and we welcomed them.
We spoke to the reporter, producers and camera operator about how we don’t check our smartphone/Blackberry constantly, we limit the kids’ time in front of the television, thought long and hard before allowing our family to get a Wii this Christmas (our first foray into video games). We have made the conscious decision to only have one TV in the house, in an area away from where we eat meals and spend most of our family time, and we purposely chose a minivan that did not have a built-in DVD player.
I talked about how although I have this website, I make a very conscious effort not to work on it, my creative outlet and public hobby, or on worky-work assignments, around my children. When they are awake or at home from school, my focus is on them. My husband likewise, when home from work, does everything in his power to not bring work home with him. And if he has to, then how it’s important that I as Mom am plugged in…to the kids.
Chris talked about growing up in Ireland with parents who limited television watching, and how he thought that was good for his upbringing. He talked about how he and I often would rather read or choose a movie to watch together at night, rather than staring at our individual screens.
We both waxed on about how essential it was for us as parents to set healthy limits on technology and media in our home. To turn off our mobile phones when with our kids and at Mass. How when our children get older, we understand that they will need to use computers often for their education, that is a given, but that they will not have computers in their own rooms. That we will establish a family computer in a communal space in our home, with software and firewalls to help keep Web research age-appropriate.
But all that stuff was too boring I guess. Too preachy? Too vanilla? Because none of that discussion made the two-minute news story.
What was the focus? When I admitted that I knew firsthand how seductive technology and online media can be, how I had learned how tempting it would be for my children to go overboard. That when I started blogging for fun, there was a short while there that I now believe I spent too much time online. Specifically, the hours in the evening after Chris came home from work. And that after the brand new excitement of blogging wore off, back in 2008 when I started, I made a conscious decision to cut back my time online. That I now don’t spend much time on Twitter. That I don’t post as often to my blog as in the beginning. That I decided a while back that my time with my family is more important and so set limits for myself.
The reporter used the words “digital affair” and the phrase “there was a third person in your marriage”. I didn’t introduce those phrases and neither did Chris. And then I responded to her question, referencing her use of the word “affair”, trying to make light of that word introduction. And ohhhh, I guess it was just too juicy because those few sentences of mine and one of Chris’s became the crux of the story.
At least the children look great!
So with my self-deprecating and self-reflective admission of how I personally know how important it is to set limits on technology, I became for the CNN story a “technoholic” (that was the header beneath my name at first – they have since changed it to “online writer”) and a “digital addict”.
Five bucks says they didn’t call that doctor on digital addiction until the next day, when they had found the sexier slant for the story.
Hey, it’s a much better story. I get it. Everything I said was true. But the story they aired was not the one they pitched.
Talking about how 30 minutes a day playing Star Wars Lego for Wii is, in our opinion, more than enough video game time for first graders? All that other stuff on the importance of family time? BOOORRRRING.
(By the way, I would just like to say that in those very early days of blogging when Chris would go to bed ahead of me and I would stay up, I wasn’t surfing, um, gross websites or chatrooms. I was writing blog posts about how to find a nature center and an Easter egg hunt, pitching The Washington Post about articles I’d like to write for them on family activities. You probably know this if you know me or read this site, but it sure seemed seedier in the piece. And why was I staying up? Because even back then I didn’t want to be logged on while I was taking care of my children.)
(And the blogging event I went to on Friday night? That was in support of the “Be Blogalicious: The Movie” screening and Blogalicious Conference for blogging women of color! A moms’ night out special event supporting my friends, and a movement I heartily support and care about. I wished CNN had left that part in!!)
Why am I smiling so much in the CNN piece? Because I can see exactly how it is going down. As a freelance reporter and writer, I am laughing at myself that I allowed this to happen. My husband’s wry look reflects the same sentiment.
I opened my front door. I put on the sparkly eye make up.
I even agreed to go on national television while massively pregnant and puffy. (So. Hot)
I should’ve known.
I actually did know. Before the crew arrived, I told family and friends that I was well aware that it was very likely that somehow we would not look good. That there was another slant in there. I used the words “media whoredom” about myself. I knew.
I was seduced again…for exposure for my blog! “As seen on CNN!” Hubris! Pride! Ego! Media! My name in lights onscreen! See, I can be one of the “cool mom bloggers!”
Looks like now that I’m all “digitally detoxed”, my next rehab needs to be a big narcissism detox. Time to AGAIN re-focus on my family and mothering and what really matters. Like inviting family and friends over…rather than news crews.
Please leave a comment with your thoughts on the story, on the media, on how you unplug personally or in your family, whatever you like as long as it’s courteous. You do not have to share my viewpoints in the CNN piece or on this post, but courtesy counts.
For every non-spam comment I receive I will donate $1 to Crickett’s Answer, a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization partnering with LympheDIVAs to help breast cancer survivors with lymphedema obtain the essential lymphedema sleeves that their health insurance companies may not provide. Please read WhyMommy Susan of Toddler Planet’s post explaining the project in greater detail here.
You can leave one comment per day until Friday January 21 at midnight and I will donate up to $300, or 300 total comments. I got the idea from Kristen of Motherhood Uncensored.
Because if I KNEW on Friday that I was going to be on CNN talking about blogging? THIS campaign and the community that has rallied around it as WhyMommy begins to fight cancer AGAIN? That is what I wish I had talked about!