It’s time for me to come clean about screen time.
Not for my kids. They are beautiful weirdos who hate movies and prefer painting to video games. Their screen time is currently negligible, to my eternal surprise. I’m more interested in discussing my screen time. My precious, precious screen time. I am a child of the 80’s who came home from school and went directly to the giant color Magnavox that beamed in all my favorite stories on twelve glorious over-the-air channels. I like tv. It’s my friend.
The modern television world is radically different than the one I grew up in.
We are a streaming family living in a streaming nation. Television-style programming is available anywhere, anytime. These days I do most of my screen time on my tablet, using services like Netflix and Amazon Prime to bring me my stories. The convenience of having shows on demand still seems like a crazy futuristic dream.
Like my grandmother before me, who would set up her ironing board in front of her daily regimen of soap operas, I like using television to keep me entertained while doing the mind-crushingly dull work of keeping my house in order. My tablet sits propped up on the counter while I do dishes for the seventh time today, or fold the infinite little girl skirts that fill my bottomless laundry basket. The trouble is, my taste in television runs toward the violent and profanity-laced end of the viewing spectrum. Most of my favorite shows are not suitable for my children to overhear. While I convinced myself that reruns of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and The Wire would be fine for my newborns who were really focused on nursing, the sweet girls who run amok in my house these days don’t appreciate butt-kicking demons or gritty street drama. Nor should they. I am constantly looking for shows I will enjoy that will not result in my children swearing at school or turning into sociopaths.
And so, gentle reader, I present Laura’s Incomplete and Completely Subjective List of Scripted Shows I Don’t Mind My Children Accidentally Watching.
My criteria for this list:
- Do they swear? (I mean the kind of swearing that would land you in the principal’s office, not the mild cursing the children already hear me use under my breath anyway.)
- Is there graphic sexual content? (Kissing and some heavy petting acceptable)
- Is there frequent gun violence?
- Is there realistic looking physical violence? (I make an exception for violence that is cartoony)
- Is there lots of blood or gore?
- Is this a show I will actually like? (Ah, the most subjective of the qualifications. I am a geeky writer with an advanced degree in directing. I freely admit I can be both snobby and focused on cult hits.)
To check a show’s kid friendliness, try Common Sense Media. This site rates and reviews shows and suggests an appropriate age level. I use it to help me make judgement calls on shows I haven’t seen.
With these guidelines in place, here are some shows I’ve decided I can watch in front of my children. These titles are available in the United States through popular streaming services. I have placed an asterisk beside my favorites.
Gilmore Girls *
Parks and Recreation*
Better Off Ted*
I Love Lucy*
That Seventies Show
Malcolm in the Middle
The Wonder Years
A Different World
The Andy Griffith Show
Pee Wee‘s Playhouse
Dr Who *
Freaks and Geeks*
The Bletchley Circle*
The West Wing*
The Good Wife*
Star Trek (all versions)
Once Upon A Time
Pretty Little Liars
Friday Night Lights