Stay Cool Dad


The generation gap by Simon Sharwood
September 26, 2007, 12:03 pm
Filed under: Family, Kids media, Mission statement

I took my Mum to see my son at the school musical last night.

It’s a version of ‘Annie’.

At one point the music turns to a bit of a trad jazz number, which moved Mum to remark:

“Oooh! The Charleston! I bet these kids will never even know what The Charleston is.”

I thought for a minute and replied:

“Have you ever heard of Fifty Cent?”

Mum thought for a minute and said No.

Half a second later she exalted:

“And I don’t care. I don’t want to.”

Seems to me there’s an awful lot of parent/child generational media reaction/interaction on show right there!



Permeation, power and pestering by Simon Sharwood
July 22, 2007, 10:08 am
Filed under: Family

The boy, who is five, has come back from school saying he has ‘played Harry Potter’.

Most of his games at school involve running around the playground with some kids being goodies and some being baddies shouting at each other and “killing” one another.

No worries there. It’s normal, if sometimes odd.

But we have hardly mentioned Harry Potter to him. Yet he knew he was Harry and that his pursuer/foe was “Voldemort.” Someone else got to be “Scabbers” the rat.

I have no idea how this stuff permeates his world, how other kids’ media consumption so quickly becomes part of his play lexicon.

But the barriers between one kid experiencing media and another one playing it out sure are permeable.

Another media-related incident today came in the form of a blackout. We were without power for about 90 minutes, through dinner time.

The kids took it well on the “can’t watch TV” front.

Tomorrow, we move into the next phase of media experimentation. Our weekday evenings have been largely  TV-free of late. We’re just too busy.

The same can be said for the 6:45-8:30 get ready for school time. The problem is that the morning is when us adults need time t, y’know, shower! And with nothing to control them as we go about making ourselves presentable, the kids have sometimes become tricky.

So our next experiment is 30 minutes of TV from 7:30AM to 8:00 AM as the  sole schoolday watching in the hope it makes for smoother watching.

The idea is that if we feed them before 7:30, get ourselves ready from 7:30 to 8:00, then dress the kids and eject oursleves from the  house around 8:20 all will go better.

Wish us luck.



Wallace and Gromit vs. Spiderman by Simon Sharwood
July 5, 2007, 11:08 pm
Filed under: Family, What we are watching on TV

School holidays here this week, which has meant we relax our usual ‘no TV in the morning’ rule.

We laid in the DVD of the three Wallace and Grommit shorts to help out and they have been a colossal hit. We’ve just about worn a hole in the DVD!

The kids have been transfixed.

I put it down to the fact that the low-dialogue style makes them watch more closely because they cannot just let the noise and movement tell the story. And I love the fact Nick Park uses so much film language. I feel like W&G are teaching the kids about media even while they entertain themselves!

Nicest of all, the kids have even developed a W&G game, which involves sitting on the couch reading a newspaper. Spiderman might work for a newspaper, but how often does he read it?



Taking control by Simon Sharwood
July 1, 2007, 3:43 am
Filed under: Family, Games

The boy has never been one of those kids that get precocious with remote controls. So if the channel needs changing or the DVD needs a bunt onto a different chapter, parents scuttle about our house to help them out.

But the Wii is changing this.

The boy can turn it on, get the TV onto the right channel, start a game and do all that’s needed to get it rolling.

Clearly, Wii is more of an incentive to learn this behaviour than silly old television ever was.

It has not, however, sparked poor behaviour. Both kids have been pretty good about having it turned off. And there is also a slow but noticeable improvement in motor skills.

And when he hit his first home run in baseball today (broken arm and all), it was a very fine occasion!

All in all, a pretty good result so far, especially as his favorite passive media right now is rather violent and sees a lot of shouting and punching.

I understand that is normal. But it is also obnoxious to deal with all day …



The big test by Simon Sharwood
June 12, 2007, 4:42 am
Filed under: Family, Games, Mission statement

Well … we have a new games console. A Nintendo Wii.

Here’s what I hope it does for us.

In recent weeks I have been pleased that the kids have, by and large, been getting positive things out of media.

Sure the  super hero stuff sets up some play based on conflict, but I do not see it as influencing their behaviour other than in a few villainous roars. They are not always great, but there is not actual violence, just posturing that can come from the goodies AND the baddies.

A lot of the time, however, they have learned new things and encountered material that has challenged them. Not always. But as we learn to steer clear of the more brainless stuff out there, the kids seem to do alright on their diet of Pixar and UK-produced drama. (Although I am dirty that they are both too young for The Roman Mysteries) And even newspapers have come in handy lately. It is astounding how much dinosaur news makes the papers, while a piece about Tasmanian Aboriginals eating Wombat brains went down a treat.

Which brings  us to the Wii.

The boy has, of late, been playing a simple game called Miner Max that is more about resource allocation than violence. He’s fascinated by the possibilities even if he cares little for the outcome.

For me, that’s the trick with how we set up their expectations for Wii. It’s got to be about exploration, not domination.

It will be interesting to see how we go.



Too soon for wiining … by Simon Sharwood
May 15, 2007, 7:47 am
Filed under: Family

We took the kids to the wine country over the weekend.

I knew in advance that it could be a stretch – wineries are not really kid friendly and they have no socialisation at all  around the whole idea of cellar door hopping.

They did alright, thanks to the presence of a swimming pool and a  park. Those were familiar enough to them to be fun. The rest? Wine is just not for kids and there was no point of reference to hang the experience on for them, especially as wineries have no cute animals …

Meanwhile, we are about to acquire a Nintendo Wii. I have no idea what that will do to the kids. I plan to have fun!



Moving beyond ‘A series of tubes’ by Simon Sharwood
April 25, 2007, 11:01 pm
Filed under: Family, Off topic, but indulge me

A US senator once described the Internet as ‘A series of tubes.’

Well … over here we think that the Internet is a bundle of small pieces of woolen yarn.

Or so says my nearly three-year-old daughter, who spent much of yesterday shuffling the bundle around our couch, proclaiming ‘It’s my Internet.’

From the mouths of babes …