NBC Focuses on Quality Family Time

What can parents do to draw their kids away from computers, video games and cell phones? 

On the February 29 broadcast of NBC's Today Show, co-hosts Matt Lauer and Meredith Vieira suggested throwing an old-fashioned family night.  You know, the kind where the entire family sits in the same room, watches the same movie, or reads together, or plays a game that involves interaction with real, live people.   


Lauer and Vieira spoke with a panel of experts to give parents ideas on how to turn Friday nights into family nights.  Most of the ideas were low-cost (likely to be much appreciated amid reports of an economic downturn) and all were centered on the family. 

Peter Glassman, owner of “Books of Wonder,” highlighted reading as a family activity, suggesting families read such classics as The Wizard of Oz, The Little Prince and To Kill a Mockingbird.  Glassman suggested younger family members might enjoy a few books on the same theme such as trucks or spunky girls.  Another idea for families with older children was to create a family book club and for parents to introduce books to their children that a made a difference in their lives. 

As for board games, Lisa Bain, executive editor of Parenting magazine, recommended games that involve strategy and learning.  Her list included “Cranium Family Fun,” a game that involves acting out skits, drawing and molding items out of clay; “Duck, Duck Goose,” a “fast, funny card game”; and “Great Word Race,” a game in which players throw lettered dice and spell out at many words as they can.  Bain also highlighted a new version of Pictionary in which clues are drawn on a plastic man and noted it would be good for teenagers.  Vieira also suggested her favorite game, “Scattergories.” 

For those families who are looking for extended family time, Travel+Leisure's senior editor Mark Orwoll suggested becoming a “tourist in your hometown”; renting a hotel room and visiting museums and other sites close to home.  Orwoll also suggested families camp out in their back yards, noting that it doesn't cost a lot and families would be “away from the TV and computer.” 

Even the rice-krispy treats recommended as family night snacks had an old-fashioned air about them.  Nobody mentioned the horrid trans-fats possibly lurking in the sticky squares.  

Surprisingly, only one person advocated “family night” as a “couch potato night.”  Even so, Thelma Adams, the DVD critic of US Weekly, offered a slate of truly family-friendly films for families to enjoy together: Disney's Enchanted and The Little Mermaid, The Chronicles of Narnia (in preparation for the May 16 release of Prince Caspian), and for the younger kids, Three Pigs and a Baby.  One suggested movie, Hogfather, is a British import Adams claimed as a “Harry Potter style” production. CMI suggests parents evaluate that DVD before allowing their children to view it. 

It's refreshing to see an effort to encourage families to spend quality time together in ways that don't have to cost an arm and a leg, but will still create lasting memories for all involved. 

Colleen Raezler is a research assistant at the Culture and Media Institute, a division of the MediaResearchCenter