Screen Time Warning

When I was a young Mom, way back in the old days of the mid 1980s, we were warned that we needed to limit our kids exposure to TV. Given the fact that we didn’t have cable yet, and there were only a few channels, we were pretty comfortable with limiting TV.

It wasn’t that hard, cuz, you know, not that much was on.

Then the years went by, and suddenly we all found ourselves surrounded by tablets and desktops and laptops and “smartphones” and “smartTVs”. Suddenly the world became an endless series of googles and posts and updates.

As a grandmother, in charge of the tender care of my little grandchildren, I am acutely aware of every warning.

“Screen time will give your child rickets!,” or something along those lines, appears every day on my Twitter feed. “Don’t let the kids watch TV/YouTube/Netflix!!!! They will become serial killers!” Facebook tells me.

Or something like that.

I tend to ignore this stuff, to be honest.

I mean, you can’t actually convince me that we were better off watching Howdy Doody than our kids are watching Sesame Street and Dr. McStuffins.

At least these new shows have a semblance of educational value.

I do believe, in my deepest Nonni heart, that kids are better off playing outside, using playdoh, painting, or looking at books, than they are when they’re watching TV. So I make sure that our day includes lots of the former, but not that much of the latter.

Yay, me.


Here’s the real point of this post.


Not so much for the kids, if you ask me, but holy crap. Screen time for them is REAL danger for us!

Let me give you a couple of examples, so that you can draw your own conclusions.

There was the day this week when I totally slept through my alarm. Although the alarm has been set for 6:45 since September, I found myself rolling over at 8 and wondering why the sun was up so high. Luckily for me, my husband has an internal clock, so he was already up and ready for the kids. Unluckily for me, someone who shall remain nameless (Ellie or Johnny) had pushed the “total silence” button on my phone. I was enjoying my total silence. Yikes! I barely had my clothes on when I had to start serving waffles.

Then there was the time I called my phone company to complain that I was absolutely unable to get a text, even though I’d been getting them for months. I blamed the phone, the provider, the Russians, whatever. I was pissed off.

The not-quite-smirking young man on the other end of the phone walked me through a few troubleshooting steps. “Check on your ‘airplane mode’.” he told me. I pshawed. I haven’t been on a plane in MONTHS. “It’s not on.” I snarked. “Did you check?” he asked. So I did.


“Airplane mode: on”.


I wonder who did that?

Then there was the status update on my niece’s Facebook page. She put up a lovely post about going to the beach on a sunny weekend day. My response to her was this: ]0\0k\000000k00kk0k0


She replied with “WHAT??????”

My first thought was that I’d had one too many glasses of wine, but it was a weeknight. No, I didn’t! Then I remember that I’d left my laptop open while I went into the kitchen to get Ellie a snack.

Johnny was standing there right before my computer.

I think we all know what he did.

So there you go.

At the age of a year and a half, any kid can access your Facebook, change your settings, order a yacht online or send for a Russian bride.

This is NOT good.

Ergo: I now warn you about screen time. I don’t care if the kids are watching too much PBS. I care about protecting you from that doorbell ring where the guy on the steps asks, “Hi! Are you the one who ordered 7,000 red worms?”

Sure we look innocent! We have your phone and your iPad under our chairs!

So, what if????

What if you had a friend, a person that you hadn’t seen in a long time?  I mean, a very, VERY long time?  Like, what if you hadn’t seen this person in over 35 years? And what if you hadn’t really ever been close friends, even way back in the past?

What if that friend had moved across the ocean decades ago, and had created a whole new life in Europe?

And what if you sort of stumbled upon each other, through a whole network of mutual friends, on Facebook?  How would you feel if it turned out that the old, nearly forgotten friend seemed to be really, really in tune with your entire life philosophy?

What would you do?

What if that old friend, that boy you hadn’t seen since he was an adorable nineteen year old, suddenly said that he was coming to the US?  What would you do?

I bet you’d do pretty much what I did!

I invited him to spend a couple of days with us!

So now I am sitting in my living room, waiting for Paul to bring Thomas home to our house.   The house is clean(ish).  The dogs are fed.  The guest room is all made up.  I have vegan snacks and vegan dinner (yay, pizza!) all ready.  I have beer on ice and wine in the fridge.

I’m nervous!

What if I seem really old?  I mean, the last time we saw each other, I was young and thin and dark haired!  What if Thomas hates dogs? What if he hates my vegan pizza?

What if I am being a complete loonie tune right now, and what if I am forgetting that even in the late fifties, people can reestablish old friendships?  What if I am underestimating my friend, expecting him to be all judgy and unkind?

What if, once Thomas gets here, and we all sit down to our pizza and snacks and wine and beer, it turns out that we really truly do have so much in common? What if we talk about climate change, and Bernie Sanders and marriage equality, and what if we laugh and reminisce and tell funny stories?

What if we find out that even after all these years, even after so much change and growth and aging, we are still able to find like-minded souls out there in the big world?

What if it turns out that all those years ago, when I wasn’t wise enough to see it, I was already in the presence of a very good friend?

Facebook, oh, Facebook…….!

SONY DSCMany years ago, when my first child was a freshman in college (2004, in case you were wondering…..), I learned about a cool new technology called “Facebook”.  At the time, it was limited to college students, who used it to connect with classmates.   And to find out what was missed when said student accidentally slept through a class.

After a few years, Facebook became a site for high school students, then junior high students, and finally, a place for lonely parents to stalk their almost adult kids.

So I signed up.

What fun!  At first I loved having the ability to post my every thought. (“What a long week!!”) I enjoyed sharing every important event in my life. (“Cleaned the bathroom this morning, then made some bread!”)  I was privy to every single detail of every single friend.  It was so incredibly….intimate.

Most importantly, I was able to silently monitor the social, academic and personal lives of all three of my kids. (“In a relationship” and “Single” were the key posts, but I read everything.)

After a while, I sort of settled into the wonderful world of Facebook, learning to disregard the claims that someone had just won a Pulitzer Prize, laughing at the jokes, and quickly scanning the posts about people’s head colds.

Overall, I’ve enjoyed my time on FB.  I’m back in touch with a whole bunch of people from my past, and that is invaluable.  I can chat with my old High School friends, and even the kids from elementary school. In spite of my fear of the NSA, I’ve been back in touch with friends in Tunisia, and have been able to learn about the events of the “Arab Spring” and all that has followed.  That is amazing and awe inspiring; I get to ask about what is happening from people who are marching in the streets of Tunis.    That experience can’t be matched, and I owe it all to Facebook.

But there are a couple of problems with this wonderful social media site.  First of all, of course, is the horrible stalking by real and fake advertisers. I mean, seriously? I wrote once before about those horrific Dr. Oz ads (if you want to, you can read that here), but there are zillions of other ads to complain about.  Shoes, bags, Masters Degrees, cremation (!), weight loss, jewelry, cosmetic surgery. You name it, I have been its target.

Second of all, those awful posts that appear on my…page? timeline? wall? thingy?….advertising a restaurant or a game or a TV show.  Yuck. I don’t like the fact that I have to unlike it, then I have to explain WHY I unliked it. I just want it to go away!

But the main reason why I am kind of all done with the foolishness of FB?

Well, about 4 years ago, one of Kate’s friends wanted to win a contest on Facebook.  She needed lots of people to vote for her.  Kate talked me into setting up some Facebook accounts for people who weren’t real.  So I made a page for my dog, Tucker.

Huhuhuh!  How funny is this?  I uploaded his picture, made up some information (you know, like “occupation: pet”, “age: 42 in dog years”).  I thought I was hilarious.  I got him his page, and voted for Kate’s friend, and promptly forgot all about it.

But here’s the problem.

Every single day, for the past three months, I have been getting an email from Facebook. It says, “Tucker, 10 people are waiting to meet you!”  or “You have 15 friend requests, Tucker!”

And I want to scream, “No he doesn’t! He’s a damn dog!!! He has no friend requests!”

But no one would hear me, obviously. All I can do is delete the messages.  Every day. Every single day. Over and over and over.

I tried to deactivate his account, but wouldn’t you know…….

I forget his password.



Stalked by Dr. Oz

I don’t know about you, but I have to fight my addiction to Facebook.  I try hard not to go straight there every time I boot up my laptop.  I try not to recheck it every few minutes while I am supposed to be writing a report or doing lesson plans.

My intentions are good, but my will power is weak!

If I don’t constantly track Facebook, how can I keep tabs on my kids? I mean, really?

If I don’t keep up with every status update, how will I see the growth of everyone’s beautiful babies and children?  How can I stay in touch with my childhood friends and old High School buddies?

I try, I do.  But my will power is weak.

The questions is: How the hell does Facebook KNOW that my will power is weak? How does Mark Z. read my mind like that?

I’m sure you’ve noticed the little column of ads on the right side of your FB page, right? They don’t usually bother me, but lately I have noticed that in with the ads for shoes, purses and tax prep offers, I keep seeing Dr. Oz sitting on a couch in front of the hugest woman in the world, her gargantuan figure draped in a bright fuschia muumuu.  The first time I saw her, (just as I was about to pop a cookie in my mouth), I felt intense sympathy.  I mean, yikes, there but for the grace of God, and all that.  Dr. Oz looked so kind and gentle as he leaned toward her.  The ad was for some kind of Dr. Oz weight loss program.  I ignored it.

But over the next few weeks, I saw that same image popping up, over and over again.  Sometimes the woman was swathed in yards of fuschia, sometimes she was in neon yellow or an eye melting chartreuse.  It was really disturbing!

I began to feel uneasy.

I would open FB, grab a nice buttery piece of toast, and immediately my eyes would be pulled to the right.  Urk!  There she would be, in all her horrific glory, folds of cloth and folds of flesh draping over her knees and the TV studio couch, Dr. Oz leaning in to offer help.  The toast would drop and I would reach for an apple.

The weird thing is, they seemed to be advertising different things every time.  A diet, an exercise plan, a health food plan….. And it was always the exact same image, with only the dress color changing.  Weird!

Now, I understand how these ads work. I order shoes on Amazon, I get a million shoe ads.  I buy a book on line, a million book ads pop up.  I write a status about my back ache (not that I would ever do that!!!) and ads for pain meds and spine stretchers appear.

But I haven’t joined a weight loss program, or searched for low calorie diets or googled Dr. Oz!

HOW does Facebook know I need to drop a few pounds?   HOW?

Can it see me?  Gulp.

Is there some weird sensor in my screen that detects the scent of chocolate and immediately calls up the picture of the woman in the hot pink outfit?  I’m beginning to feel more than a little creeped out.

As my discomfort (ok, my paranoia) grew, I investigated the stupid ads, and realized that there is a little ‘x’ on the upper right corner of each one. You can click on that and remove the ad!  Yay!  Facebook even sends you a little message, telling you that you can hide “all ads from  said company”.  I clicked on that, of course, within two seconds of finding it! Then Facebook asks you why.  I clicked “uninteresting” the first time. And the second, third, fourth, fifth and sixth times, too.

The next day?  Screaming yellow muumuu. “Plop” goes my ice cream spoon.  “Click” on the ‘x’ again.  This time I hit “offensive” as my reason for sending the fat lady away.

Two hours later: Fat lady, bright red dress, oozing flesh.  Click, click, click! After a while, I started to hit “other” as my reason for removing the image.  Then FB asked me to explain. “I am not dieting.” was my first response, but as each day goes by and she keeps coming back to haunt me like a dish of spicy chili, my responses have become more and more shrill.

I have been reduced to fighting with the invisible, snarky robots who run Facebook’s ads.

This is how the conversation seems to be going now.

Fat lady in green: You’re a whale, Karen. You know that, right?

me: Shut up!!!  I own an elliptical machine!

Fat lady in yellow: Yeah. You have to actually get ON it once in a while. Step away from the donut, girlfriend.

me:  Go away!  Offensive! Repetitive! Stop!!

Fat lady in pink: Seriously. You look like a manatee. You are two pounds away from asking to borrow my dress.


So, my friends and relations, I have two questions:

1)  WHY are these ads popping up over and over?  Is Dr. Oz after me?  How do they know I’m “big boned”?

2) Should I keep up my fight, or just give in and try to lose a few of these extra little love handles?

What’s your FB experience been like? Do you get ads for anything less offensive than this?