Every Thursday in LOL Interwebz, Luke T. Harrington explores the quirks and foibles of Internet culture from a Gospel perspective.
This column is a safe space, right? I can confess anything here? Good, because I’m about to tell you the most embarrassing thing I’ve used the Internet for that didn’t involve a rubber chicken and a pair of handcuffs (that’s next week’s column). Ready? Here goes:
There’s no magic formula, and your kids aren’t vending machines that will turn out perfect if you put the right “coins” in them.I’ve pretty much just let Netflix raise my kids.
Don’t judge me!!!
Or do judge me. Whatever, I probably deserve it.
I know pediatricians recommend that you limit “screen time,” but y’know what? Those pediatricians are literally just making stuff up. There haven’t been any comprehensive studies done on the effects of “screen time,” because there hasn’t been time to do them since our world got overrun with screens. We don’t know what Netflix does to kids. Maybe it gives them superpowers, like getting bitten by radioactive spiders does. You don’t know, man.
And besides, you would have done the exact same thing, if you were in my shoes. Let me tell you how it happened, and you can decide for yourselves whether I was ever in the wrong (hint: I’ve never been in the wrong, ever).
It all started when my first daughter was born, which was good, but then three weeks later I lost my job, which was bad. It was okay, though, because I ended up staying home with my daughter, which was fine, because my wife wouldn’t have wanted to do it, because my daughter is really annoying. Plus, for me, it was the perfect opportunity to pursue my real passion: hang-gliding. And also writing. Mostly writing.
At the time, my daughter was barely a month old, which gave me plenty of time to devote to the craft. She would eat, she would poop, and then she’d sleep for four hours, giving me tons of unbroken writing time. It was a great system for both of us, and within a year I had finished my first novel (OPHELIA, ALIVE, COMING APRIL 2016, TELL ALL YOUR FRIENDS), written a couple pieces that had gotten widespread attention, scored a nonfiction book deal, and started my acclaimed and prestigious column, “LOL Interwebz” (perhaps you’ve heard of it). But, then, see, something happened.
It turns out that babies eventually turn into kids. And kids, like…need to be entertained.
The Netflix thing started out innocently enough. Her godparents gave her a stuffed Perry the Platypus for her first birthday, and I thought she might want to experience for herself the august source material from whence her new best friend had come. We would watch a few episodes together, here and there, when she needed something calm to do, or when her screaming had gotten too distracting for me to get any writing done. It was fun.
But then we got to the end of the series.
“More Perry!” she yelled.
I should have seen it coming, of course. If a one-year-old likes something the first time, she’ll love it the millionth time. But, obviously, I could only sit through the first three seasons of Phineas and Ferb so many times, so…
I let her start watching it by herself.
I didn’t abandon her to the TV. I was still in the room. But, I was sitting there, with my laptop, headphones in, tapping away at today’s masterpieces and tomorrow’s legends. What else was a dad to do? She was awake more often and my writing time was getting squeezed into oblivion. What could I have done? Deprived the world of its masterpieces and/or legends?
But really, I’mma have to blame Netflix’s software on this one.
There was a time when entertaining kids with a TV was work. You either had to wait for a kids’ show to come on the TV, or you had to insert a videotape or DVD into a player. Even if the thing was entertaining, it would be over in a couple of hours. But then Netflix came along and decided they needed to own our children’s souls. And so they invented autoplay.
Autoplay, as Netflix practices it, won’t just automatically play a whole season of a show. It won’t even just play a whole series. It’ll play the whole series, and then another similar series, and then another one, and then another one — to infinity. All I had to do was push play, and I would get a whole day to write.
Yes, I know I’m a terrible person. I sold my daughters (there are two of them now! how did that happen?) to Netflix in exchange for professional success. But y’know what? I regret nothing. I’m making this confession because I know I can get away with it, because I’m a dad. If I were a mom, the Twitterverse would shame me into oblivion, because for some reason mothers are a cannibalistic tribe who lie in wait to devour the ones who step out of line.
But those lines were always imaginary.
Organic food? No better for you. All-natural? A meaningless marketing term. Hypoallergenic? Ditto. There’s no magic formula, and your kids aren’t vending machines that will turn out perfect if you put the right “coins” in them. They’re autonomous, ensouled beings made in God’s image.
Autoplay is morally ambiguous, sure, but it’s also how my daughters discovered amazing schlock like Bob Zoom, a Brazilian show about a badly-Flash-animated ant who dances while a hastily assembled choir sings public domain songs, and Lottie Dottie Chicken, which is the exact same thing but with a chicken. Also, I’m going to start a new wave band and name it The Exact Same Thing but With a Chicken.
But they’ve also discovered Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood, which is a sweet, heartfelt show that’s teaching them how to love others and work through their emotions. I refuse to believe that’s bad for them just because it’s on a screen.
Should I play with them outside more? Yes. Probably. Definitely. And I will! But should I feel bad about letting Netflix babysit?
I don’t know. Will you like me better if I do? Because, as a writer, that’s all I care about.
Image via Pixabay.