Phil at A Family Runs Through It has an interesting post up about his experience with Bob, a TV and computer screen time controller. It is an electronic device that once plugged in between the device and the power, can control use time for up to six people. The idea is that if junior is spending a little too much time on the TV or PC, Bob will electronically control whatever time limits you set. I’m not a fan of these devices.
First, I don’t see why any parent can’t handle this conflict without paying for Bob. I could see the utility if the kids are home alone after school each day and you want to keep them offline. That could be useful. However misdirecting the source of conflict to the inanimate object doesn’t seem that useful to me. The disagreement about screen time still exists. Phil says as much in his post. The kids haven’t accepted his view of how much screen time they should have. They have given up arguing because Bob doesn’t listen.
More importantly, the whole idea of teaching kids that an electronic device is in control is way too 1984ish for me. It probably would not have helped sales if they had named this thing HAL, but that is exactly what I thought of when I read Phil’s blog post. If I put one of those things in my house (just as an experiment) I’d be disappointed if my kids didn’t work together trying to defeat it. Teaching obedience to the black box, even if the black box is a proxy for the the parents, just strikes me as creepy.