a peek inside the fishbowl

29 Jan, 2015

Is there such a thing as ‘good’ screen time?

Posted by andrea tomkins in: parenting|Publishing/writing/career stuff

I’ve written a lot about screen time, here on the Fishbowl and over on the MediaSmarts blog. I think I can summarize my feelings thusly: I’m not against TV, video games, iDevices etc. I do however, worry about the effect these things are having on our brains and attention spans and I believe there should be limits to how much time we spend with them instead of doing other things. I do also believe it’s fair to make a distinction between GOOD media and CRAPPY media consumption. I touched on the idea in this past post. GOOD media is brain food.

In that post I mentioned a book that stayed with me. Please allow me to quote myself for a moment:

There’s a memoir by Canadian writer and film critic David Gilmour called The Film Club: A True Story of a Father and a Son. It’s essentially about how the author finds himself underemployed with a 15-year old son who wants to drop out of high school. He lets him do this on one condition, that they watch three movies each week together. It is pretty unconventional parenting, and I find it interesting for several reasons but it really hit the idea home that watching a great film with your kid may be as important as sitting down to dinner together.

We’ve always been keen on great films here at Casa Fishbowl, but in my latest post on the MediaSmarts blog I’ve write a bit about how we are honing our interest down even further. You can read that right here.

Spoiler alert! One of the things I’ve resolved to do is watch more documentary films as a family. Here are three recent ones that have been entertaining and insightful in equal measure.

Rich Hill.

Queen of Versailles


I asked some friends on Facebook what documentaries they’d recommend and here are a few of their suggestions (I have a lot of Googling to do!): Planet Earth, Frozen Planet, Frozen Sea, Fed Up, The Blue Planet, Elmo, 100 Feet from Stardom, Muscle Shoals, Sound City, Happy, Kings of Pastry, Don’t Look Back, The Flat, Ken Burns docs, Super Size Me, Revolution.

It’s worth noting that we’ve been watching Life Story on CBC and REALLY enjoying it! It contains some of the best wildlife footage I’ve ever seen.

1 Response to "Is there such a thing as ‘good’ screen time?"

1 | binki

January 30th, 2015 at 1:40 pm


Totally agree that there are quality shows / movies / documentaries that can be viewed as a family activity. Our kids are just getting to the age where they can watch and “get” the gist of certain documentaries. Not all, obviously, but some. You mentioned the Planet Earth series. O.M.G. soooo goood. This we watched as a family starting way back when the youngest was 5. It’s just jaw-dropping footage about the natural world. Incredible things you’ve probably never seen. Similar to the Life Story series currently running (also narrated by Attenborough) but more depth and more interesting. I also highly recommend Human Earth which is basically stories of people that the film crew of Planet Earth encountered during their filming. It’s also excellent. See people and places – up close. Same beautiful footage as Planet Earth. The kids liked it.
Another thing that is excellent on TV – for families – is the TVO series where the folks experience life back in in time. The medieval series was call Tudor Monastery. There was one about Victorian Times and I recently saw one about life in England during WWII. All really interesting and educational.
Thanks for raising this. Good topic. Don’t forget to list the movies/ documentaries that have been suggested. ;-)

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The Obligatory Blurb

My name is Andrea and I live in the Westboro area of Ottawa with my husband Mark and our dog Piper who is kind of a big deal on Instagram. We also have two human daughters: Emma (20) and Sarah (18). During the day I work as a writer at The Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre. I am a longtime Ottawa blogger and I've occupied this little corner of the WWW since 1999. The Fishbowl is my whiteboard, water cooler, and journal, all rolled into one. I'm passionate about healthy living, arts and culture, family travel, great gear, good food, and sharing the best of Ottawa for families. I also love vegetables, photography, gadgets, and great design.

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