Alex as Anakin Skywalker and Sam as BatmanBeing a parent in this brave new world of media can be a challenge.  I have two boys, Alex (6) and Sam (3), who are growing up in a time and place where their worlds are bathed in media.  As a parent, the challenge is to determine what’s appropriate and what’s not.  I wanted to write about a few of the ways our family uses Media.

Broadband Internet

We have cable internet service through Comcast which gives us instant access to all kinds of media – Alex has already become adept at using the computer in our kitchen to surf to the Disney or Lego websites to play games.  He got his first software program – he calls it his website – an educational title on Frogs which we installed on the kitchen computer – he got it at the new Academy of Sciences in San Francisco.  We watched much of the Olympics online this year with the boys on http://nbcolympics.com and they loved it.

Digital Cable

We also have digital cable through Comcast.  90% of the content that the boys watch on this is Disney, PBS, Nickelodeon on-demand 1/2 hour shows – that stop after the half hour – that’s a key feature.  My wife and I still have to select the program and start it for them but they really enjoy it with a minimum of commercials.

Radio

Alex loves listening to NPR with us – we listen in the car and on our digital cable service.  Alex’s favorite program is “Guy Noir” on A Prairie Home Companion.  I have always been a fan of public radio, and I try to catch Selected Shorts and This American Life when it fits my schedule – otherwise I listen to them on my Zune as a podcast when travelling. 

Zune

Both my wife and I have Zune music players.  Liz uses hers mostly for music but my favorite thing on mine is the Podcasts.  I found a great podcast for children’s stories called StoryNory where I can plug the Zune into our stereo system in the living room and Alex and Sam will sit on the couch motionless listening to stories, both new and classic ones, told by Natasha, a lively British woman.  My father is the one who turned me onto radio, especially NPR – he told me that radio was “theater of the mind”.  He passed away before the medium of the podcast became ubiquitous and he would have loved to see his grandchildren engrossed in a story being told in this way – a logical extension of the radio format. 

Books

We read to our boys every night.  Last year when Alex was in kindergarten he started coming home from school with questions about Star Wars.  Hard to answer questions like “Is Anakin Skywalker good or bad?”  Alex is quite sensitive and we weren’t ready to subject him to the movies without preparing him.  My colleague David Jung suggested that I get the novelization Star Wars and read it to him.  You can find it at Borders published by Scholastic in two books.  So we started with episode 4 – the original Star Wars movie that I saw when I was 7.  Every night we read a chapter in the story which followed the movie plot exactly.  After we read each story, we rented the movie DVD and watched it together.  We have now completed episodes 4, 5, and 6 and now we have started with episode 1.  He loves it and he is experiencing it in the same order in which the episodes were released.

We are also close to the library so we are always checking books out – if you look around our house, books are everywhere – and our kids love them.

DVDs

Luckily we live less than a block away from a DVD rental shop so finding something to watch for the kids is pretty easy.  Besides what we see on our computers in Silverlight, we haven’t moved to HD for our living room yet - our Sony Trinitron is still doing just fine and we’re not ready to make the investment in HD technology and media – maybe soon.