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Chill Out, Let Your Kid Watch TV Already

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Like many first-time parents, I was anxious and unsure, so I relied heavily on the infinite parenting books and blogs on naps, diet, and poops. I felt like any departure from these experts would turn my child into a serial killer or, at the very least, a B- student. In particular, the kiddie pundits advised limiting television, which made sense to me. “Television equals bad,” I thought.

Growing up, it seemed to me that the kids in AP classes came from homes with no or very limited screen time. I, on the other hand, spent about 75% of my non-school time either three feet in front of the television or talking about or reading about my favorite shows in “TV Guide.” To this day, I can recite the plot and dialogue of my favorite shows, Starsky and Hutch, The Rookies, and Ironside. Not surprisingly, I never set foot in an AP class.

Even though I enjoyed these shows immensely, as an adult, I regret not spending any free time reading novels or playing sports. Maybe I would have been more successful professionally had I just watched fewer crime dramas — or at least, maybe I would get farther than Tuesday in the New York Times crossword puzzle.

Now an adult with a kid, job, husband, and worries about the current administration, my concentration is shot. When I have free time to watch TV, I devote it to news programs. I have lost interest in episodic TV. And I want to be a good example of sensible television-watching for my kid.

I struggle with limiting screen time for my 11-year-old. He watches a good chunk of shows and it seems every other day I come up with a new plan for how to curb this habit. Setting timers, rewarding non-screen activities, and giving in have been my top three techniques. As I’ve read more and more about screen time, I’ve started to fear that he, too, will never see the inside of an honors class.

But then came Arrow.

Arrow is a show about a ne’er-do-well playboy billionaire who gets stranded on an island for five years. The main character, Oliver, becomes quite adept at using a bow and arrow, builds his body into a weapon, and returns to his home city where he moonlights as a crime-fighter known as The Arrow.

“I think you’ll like it. It’s a fun show that doesn’t take itself seriously,” my husband pleaded.

“Really? A superhero with a bow and arrow? Not buying it. I’ll be watching MSNBC,” I said, dashing his dreams.

But then a couple of months ago, my son started watching Arrow on the recommendation of a friend who had an older brother. A show filled with fighting, danger, villains, and all things inappropriate for his age — just what I didn’t want. I caught a glimpse of the program while I was folding laundry.

I’ll admit it: I have not been the same since I got this peek. Binge-watching at home and on the subway (I love you Netflix!), I am way behind on current events.

Is it that the actor who plays Oliver/Arrow is so handsome and buff it’s illegal in most states? Is it simply comforting to get wrapped up in a world where good overcomes evil? Or am I just a big fan of archery?

I enjoy analyzing the show like a mom, not the teenager I used to be. When Dig and Lyla, parents of a newborn, had to leave abruptly to go on a mission for Arrow, my first thoughts were: Who is taking care of the baby? How did they find a nanny so quickly?

I would have never been able to do that. Even if I found someone, by the time I explained the nap procedure, food likes and dislikes, and whom to call in emergencies, the mission would be over and lives would be lost.

And, then there is Arrow’s computer whiz sidekick, Felicity, a Jew who says “mazel tov” and “Happy Hanukkah”. When she realized she loved the non-Jewish Oliver/Arrow and he felt the same, I wondered: Isn’t she worried about interfaith issues?

I’m pretty sure if I told my mom when I was 25 that I met a good-looking billionaire who also saves the city, her first question would have been, “But is he Jewish?”

I started to cry when Oliver’s mom hugged him in the hospital, his first stop after being rescued from the island. She whispered “my beautiful boy,” and I know I would probably say the same. What about my kid? I am not sure he would survive this ordeal. I put “sign son up for archery lessons” as number one on my to-do list: and “teach son how to do his laundry” as number two.

Watching the show with my son has been a great bonding experience. What could be more fun than watching with my tween, snuggling on the couch, and saying things like, “How is Arrow going to get out of this pickle?” I try to make it educational, discussing Oliver’s complexity and motives. When my little TV-watcher says, “Mom, you sound like my English teacher!” I know I have done my job.

So, I am going to lighten up about screen time. Sometimes, television equals good.

The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. Comments are moderated, so use your inside voices, keep your hands to yourself, and no, we're not interested in herbal supplements.

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