As always, parents need to use their best judgement: to watch or not watch the eclipse is a highly personal decision.
There are a few posts being shared over and over on social media from Optometrists warning against the dangers of watching the eclipse. If you haven’t seen them I’ll summarize: looking at the sun without eye protection can really harm your eyes.
No brainer, right?
I’m fine with the warning, after all, my kids are the world’s worst at following directions and would be the first ones to rip off those annoying eclipse glasses to see what’s going on. What I’m not fine with is the suggestion at the very bottom of the post to “be safe, watch the eclipse on T.V. instead.”
Come on people – watch it on T.V.? How is that learning anything at all? It would be better to sit on the porch in the shade and observe what happens to nature when the sky goes dark in the middle of the day. Put a hat on the kids, keep them from staring up at the sun, and let them be a part of it all.
I’m tired of the message our kids are constantly getting from the experts. Don’t go to the baseball game, it’s too crowded – watch it on T.V. Don’t bother going to the Olympics (if you’re lucky enough to be close) because the T.V. is better anyway. Don’t take your kids to the symphony unless they can be perfectly quiet, let them watch it on YouTube. Don’t ride that rollercoaster because it’s too dangerous – watch a Go-Pro video about it instead. T.V. has become the default, not the exception.
In this particular case, I’m really irritated at the experts, because they’re not saying anything new. Don’t look at the sun. Yeah, we know that. We also know that the eclipse is out of the ordinary, and kids will be tempted to peek just to see what’s happening. Give parents some credit instead of blaring fear all over the internet.
I know my kids are impulsive and careless. You think I’ll see much of the eclipse? Nope. I’m going to be too busy keeping an eye on the munchkins, making sure they’re keeping glasses on or not looking up – because I highly doubt the 2-year-old is going to care much about the eclipse.
A lot of people are saying “my kid is too young to remember anyway, so why put them in harm’s way?” I get that. But I could use that rational for science experiments too – my kids are too young to remember, so why bother? We do lots of things with our kids that they will never remember, including going to the county fair, visiting D.C., going swimming at the water park, and going on various field trips around town.
You think they’ll remember all of that? I doubt it. They might remember bits and pieces – after all, I have a memory of riding in my car seat listening to a classical music program on NPR. I know I wasn’t even 3 yet. My husband has similar, even earlier memories.
The point of all the things we do with our kids isn’t so that they will remember them as they get older: the point is to give them a rich experience as they grow up. And I can’t think of a much richer, educational experience than actually experiencing an eclipse in person.
It’s not just about watching that slim crescent shrink as the moon covers the sun – it’s about the effect on the environment around them. Sitting inside watching it on T.V. is sterile – bland – boring. Go outside and stand under a tree if you don’t want to risk looking – after all, the footage will be available at any time.
Despite knowing my kids are impulsive and careless, we’re going to be outside watching. Armed with eclipse glasses, hats, and whatever else I think we’ll need to stay safe. But we’ll be there. Out in nature, even though it’s going to be hot and humid, and I’ll probably get a migraine from the sunlight. It’s important that my kids get to participate in this eclipse happening right in our back yards.
Sure, we’ll watch it on T.V. later, because they’ll probably miss the super important details and we won’t be in the path of totality, but that’s not our focus. Our focus is experiencing this phenomenon as it happens. Learning from it. Seeing how animals react.
So don’t let the fear-mongers scare you away from experiencing this solar eclipse – be safe, be careful, and be present.
Want to check on the safety details from NASA and their associate organization AAS? Go here for more information about safely viewing the eclipse, and go here to input your zip code and see what time the eclipse will happen, and what percent your location will see. If you’re interested in a free Jr. Ranger booklet from the National Park Service/Bill Nye, here’s the link, plus NASA put together a tutorial on how to make a pinhole solar eclipse viewer (among other things) here. Here’s a video explaining how the eclipse works, and check out this blog for a few cool ideas on eclipse activities!