05/14/2014 12:45 pm ET Updated Jul 14, 2014

The Ghosts of Screen Time Past

In a last ditch effort to firm up summer plans for my two boys, my mind goes racing back to the summers of my childhood -- those late '70s and early '80s summers.

Between ridiculously expensive weekly camps, babysitters, friends and family, I am attempting to piece together summer fun for them that will get them moving, get them outdoors and lessen their screen time.

Once again, I think back to my childhood summers. Where I know there were certain days I logged many, many hours of television. I'm not proud of this; it's just a fact.

Yep. Some days my brother and I put in a full workday in front of the tube, complete with tray tables so we could watch through breakfast and lunchtime.


My brother Mike wearing his "smock" (Dad's old work shirt) in front of... you guessed it.

Based on conversations with friends, their homes were also full of many hours of television as well.

And guess what?

We're all fine, intelligent people.

My mother always says I learned to read and write thanks to my daily plop down in front of Sesame Street and Electric Company -- thank you very much, Big Bird and Morgan Freeman.

Of course, there was only one screen option to be had back in 1970-something. Today there are just so many screens, too many screens... back in the day, we just had the one in the living room. Now screens are mobile, accessible, in cars, in restaurants, on phones, in our pockets, everywhere. I get it. It's not good.

Honestly, I'm grateful not to have grown up with all this technology.


Yes, I took this picture of our beloved RCA television -- she's a beaut!

But... does anyone else agree with me that the quality of programming we watched with our family was a bit more... shall we say... mature back then?

For example:

  • How many friends do you have who watched soap operas with their moms as young girls? All My Children? Days of our Lives? And everyone knew who Luke and Laura were, regardless of how young you were.
  • Remember the big boxing matches? Remember watching Howard Cosell?
  • The whole family would sit together to watch Three's Company, Good Times, Happy Days and The Love Boat/Fantasy Island Saturday Night combo. I can't think of any sitcoms I sit down and watch with my children today unless it's on Nickelodeon. I can't really fathom watching All in the Family or WKRP in Cincinnati with them.
  • Our family also loved to watch music related shows like Dance Fever (Deney Terrio!) Solid Gold (Marilyn McCoo!) America's Top 10 (Casey Kasem!) and Soul Train (Don Cornelius!)
  • We watched news shows like 60 Minutes. My Dad and I watched In Search Of, which would keep me up at night with the voodoo, ghost stories and vampires, but I loved it.
  • And we also watched mini-series like The Thornbirds and Roots.

Eventually, we would tire of the living room and of the television and go outside.

The banana seats on our bikes were calling -- we didn't have scheduled play dates, we just played with the gang of kids on our street. If those kids weren't around, we sat in the backyard with our siblings or by ourselves dancing to the Grease soundtrack or playing in the sandbox.

And then when Dad got home from work it was "Wapner Time." The People's Court was on!

Time to bring things back -- back to that one TV in the living room. That means losing a few screens for me. No more iPad on one arm of the chair and iPhone on the other arm. I'm having screen time with my boys.

Lori's website, Drawn to the '80s, is where her five year old draws the music hits of the 1980's. Her blog, Once Upon a Product, is where she obsesses over important things like Saturday morning cartoons, food, and Mick Jagger.