A Brave New World: Too Much (Online) TV

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[Editor’s Note: This guest post is written by Jesse Stay, the author of Google+ For Dummies, Facebook Application Development For Dummies, and the currently in-progress book, Google+ Marketing For Dummies. Jesse consults with organizations big and small on social media technologies, marketing, and design philosophies.]

“When the TV is on
All day without rest,
Mama knows it’s too much ~
And Mama knows best.” — The Berenstain Bears and Too Much TV, by Stan and Jan Berenstain

One of my favorite books growing up, and one I like to read regularly to my children, is Stan and Jan Berenstain’s “The Berenstain Bears and Too Much TV“. The book starts out with Mama Bear preparing a snack for the Cubs, Brother and Sister Bear rushing in from school, grabbing the snack, and immediately sitting in front of the TV without hesitation. It continues when Papa Bear comes home from work and does the same. “There’s no question about it, those cubs are watching too much TV!” she says in the book repeatedly as she observes their condition.

Just a couple weeks after the death of Jan Berenstain, I thought it quite appropriate that as I considered the topic for my weekly column on TechCrunch, I was seeing the same thing from her book in my family, only in modern proportions. Let me explain the technologies available in our house:

In our basement we have a Windows Media Center PC that really serves as the live entertainment hub for the whole house. It is connected to 3 TV tuners, all connected into a single over-the-air antenna that receives HD TV from local TV stations. This then gets streamed up to 3 different Xbox 360s in rooms throughout our house. On top of that, each TV room has an Apple TV which receives iTunes music (our entire music library), and now movies we have purchased through Apple’s new service, iCloud.

In our main entertainment area we have a 65″ big screen TV with the Xbox, Apple TV, but also a Oppo BDP-93 3D Blu-ray player, a Roku Box, as well as a Google TV. We also have a Nintendo Wii so we can get in our Mario Kart action. Our main, TX-NR609 Onkyo stereo receiver receives Spotify, but also a host of other radio services like Last.fm and Pandora. On the Blu-ray, as well as the Xbox, the Wii, the Roku, and the Apple TV, we have Netflix for playing streaming video and movies. To add to that, on the Roku and Google TV I also have Amazon Prime Instant Streaming available to us. The Apple TV provides additional online Movie and TV rentals, as does the Xbox 360. On the Xbox and Roku I also have Hulu Plus, and I can also get it through PlayOn, a service that streams from our central Windows media hub in the basement. On any given day you can find at least one of our kids sitting down in front of at least one of these devices (and I have five kids!).

The crazy thing is this is only the tip of the iceberg for our family. I realize I’m an edge case. As a somewhat early adopter, I like to try things out before others do, but I can only imagine the confusion other families are going through, and the new immersion in new TV technologies each family now has at their fingertips for a very small fraction of the cost of a typical cable bill. The truth is, in our family cable isn’t even a question – we already have too much TV at our hands to even think of adding another entertainment source to our lineup. Of course, I haven’t even mentioned the availability of a host of other possibilities through YouTube and other online sources. The fact is, even reducing our lineup we already have too many entertainment options to make cable even a consideration.

I think all parents can sympathize with me when I say we’re overwhelmed with how much TV our kids now have access to in this Brave New World. It’s only getting worse, and when you add to that the host of things our kids are having to consume through social media and other online entertainment sources, it’s already pretty bad.

Just yesterday I cancelled our Netflix subscription. My kids had the same reaction Brother and Sister Bear gave as they were told they had to go without TV for awhile. “But Dad!” “How will I watch my Disney shows?” “Where’s my Phineas and Ferb?” I’ve heard it all.

I feel at peace with the decision though. I may even cancel other services to cut down our options to just a select number of devices and services. This will force us to watch less movies, and less TV and focus on more productive things to do around us.

I have a feeling this is the start to a growing trend amongst parents as they start to realize their kids have more and more entertainment options at their fingertips. As for our family, we’re going to go camping this summer. We’re going to get out and enjoy nature more. We’re going to reduce all the entertainment sensations at their fingertips, and help them focus on the world that’s really around them.

I’ve gotta go — I’m missing “The Apprentice”.