“OK, honey, I’ll record it for you and we can watch it some other time,” I told her.
“What? I want to watch it now,” Ellie said.
And that’s when it hit me. Her technologically advanced world is one in which she thinks all TV is on demand. After all, she watches pretty much two shows–Gabba and Sesame Street–both of which I TiVo so they are always at her beckon call. Why wouldn’t she expect the same for Blue’s Clues?
Later that day, the house telephone rang. It was my husband checking in on our day. I put the phone on speaker so Ellie could talk to him. Instead of reciting a report about dance class that morning, she incorporated him into her current play, running for her toy blood pressure cuff and wrapping it around the phone. “I have to check your blood pressure,” she told him.
Ellie is forever showing her artwork or a new toy to the phone with the expectation that the person on the other end can see these items. After all, my Virginian enjoys lunch with my mom in Florida almost every day thanks to Skype. She easily navigates the countless videos I take of her with my iPhone without my help. To her, video on demand is ubiquitous.
And that is why I keep a careful eye on her consumption of it, including not only how much she watches in a day but what she watches. There’s no reason to deny her the exposure to today’s tech, but I do make sure she’s also aware of what a newspaper is, what a magazine is, and what books are. One of her favorite things to do is go to the library to pick out new books.
I remember getting up from the couch to push the buttons on a small plastic box any time I wanted to change the TV channel when I was a kid. Note that the box was small because I was choosing from maybe 10 channels, maybe. I remember having to finish homework so that I could be on the couch at 8 p.m. to watch Full House as it came on, and I remember running to the corded phone as soon as my friend Adam called when the commercials came on during Melrose Place. We had about two minutes to gasp about the latest salaciousness before we had to hang up and go back to the show.
My daughter will not have those memories. In some ways our on demand options are creating demanding monsters who don’t want to wait for anything. It’s just another rung in the ladder of parental challenges these days. And while I try to teach her patience and the difference between a 4G network and the limited capabilities of more archaic forms of telephony, I revel in the technology that’s available to Ellie and how quickly she takes to it. I also have to get that Toys R Us blood pressure cuff off the portable.