So, this is the new big thing at our house — pillow forts and Netflix on the Dell 2in1. Or more accurately pillow nests, where the kids strew as many pillows and cushions as they can find in a circle around themselves and snuggle down in their PJs, all lanky limbs and cuddles, in the big kids bed, or in a pile on the bedroom floor. They beg for this, as if it were the biggest treat in the world.
I can’t help but compare it to my childhood, when I wheedled my mom into letting me put the old portable black and white TV on the dresser in my room. It had rabbit ears, and picked up approximately four static-riddled stations.
Back in those pre-cable, pre-streaming, days TV was to be found only in special places, like the living room with the big TV built into it’s wooden cabinet, or perched on the edge of my bed, squinting to watch an 8-inch black and white screen. TV was also only found in special blocks of time. If you were home from school for the day, or a little kid that wasn’t attending school yet, you could watch Sesame Street, Mr. Dress-Up and the Friendly Giant on weekday mornings. Then there were after school cartoons from 3:30 until 5pm on weekdays, but for the most part they were inferior to the cartoons found on Saturday mornings. Dungeons & Dragons, Thundercats, Rubik the Amazing Cube, and Kidd Video.
I used to drag my butt out of bed on Saturday mornings just to make sure I was up in time to see my favourite show. If you missed it, it was gone. Vanishing like a sunrise. I remember watching shows out of order, and trying to piece the story together, like a puzzle. Most where simple, episodic, you could join in at any time and not have missed a thing. Some, like for example Robotech, were downright bewildering when watched out of sequence.
Now my kids have TV on demand. I’m pretty stingy with the screen time, so they don’t see many hours worth of TV in any given week. Yet still, it feels like they are being spoiled somehow. The shows are always there waiting for them, whenever they want to watch kids TV they can. They get to watch whatever they feel like (well, assuming the two of them can come to some peaceable decisions). They watch the episodes all in a row, from start to finish, and then go back and watch favourite shows again, and again, and again.
And now they can watch it ANYWHERE. They aren’t chained to the couch, or to a tiny black and white screen on a dresser 15-feet from the nearest comfy surface. They can watch TV in pretty much any room of our house. Anywhere they can build up a mound of pillows and dolls, and convince this mom to set up the laptop for them.
I can’t decide if this whole instant Kids’ TV on demand set up is better or worse… Actually thinking back, I think I may have watched MORE cartoons then my kids do now. Or at the very least I watched them more frequently. I sometimes even planned my days and activities around shows I wanted to see. Where as now, when they do sit down to watch TV they might watch 3 or 4 episodes in a row (or the occasional longer marathon session — Netflix binging, it’s not just for grown-ups), but overall they are less tied to the TV then I was, and will go several days without watching anything at all.
What do you think? Are your kids TV crazy or are they less tied to the TV then you were as a child? Is the death of the Saturday Morning Cartoon to be lamented or not? Is having children’s programming available on demand a blessing or a curse?