For a long time my morning routine had me coming downstairs with my older two boys, and plopping them down in front of the TV every morning while I davened [prayed] (not in front of the TV of course!). Of course, this is both good and bad in many ways and I won't argue its merits or shortcomings here. But what I will say is this - at some point my children discovered the computer and now find it a lot more fun that TV ever was, and as a parent, regardless of what benefits you can tell me that TV has, I think that Computers are way better for kids, and I would gladly swap 2 hours of computer time for every 1 hour they spend watching TV, why? First and foremost, when on the computer, they're Engaged. TV is a passive medium. They sit there spaced-out and watch their show, but they look lethargic and out of it, as if they are in a trance. With the computer, they are moving and active, interacting with the screen. Even the one that doesn't control the mouse is still interacting with the computer by giving his brother advice where to click. Beyond being engaged, they are always learning something. 90% of the web sites they go to are educational, and even the ones that are not, my kids are still practicing using the mouse and keyboard - skills which are vital in this day and age.
Think about how much of a role a computer plays in our daily lives - now quick, when did you get your first computer? When did you first log on to the Internet or get e-mail? How old were you? If you are in your 30's, you probably didn't get a computer until you were in Junior High or High School, and made it to college just in time to discover the Internet. My 4-month old, is already being exposed to the Internet, and my 6 and 4 year olds have been going online for at least a couple of years. I also remember showing my now 9-year-old niece the pbskids.com web site while babysitting her 7 years ago!
Of course then there are the games. My kids don't really have a gaming system (V.Smile from V-Tech and LeapFrog's Leapster notwithstanding). They are not PlayStation addicts or Wii fanatics (although my oldest did play with his Uncle's Wii, and asked if we could get one too), and I know that many parents don't like them and would love to throw them out, but games also help kids, and are better than TV. Yes, keep your teenagers away from GTA and the like, and of course 20-hour marathons and 'LAN Parties' (remember those!, 3-4 of my buddies used to bring their laptops and coax ethernet to have LAN parties in class, but I digress), but a handful of gaming hours a week are beneficial for your kids. They're learning strategy, thinking under pressure, and improving hand-eye coordination. Yes, kids also need to go outside, but if its 30 degrees outside, a Wii Fit or DDR might also prove to be good way to get exercise.
The bottom line, everything is okay in moderation. If you are able to let your kids use computers and gaming systems for a limited time each week, they will definitely benefit - especially if its at the expense of their TV time.
Below is a list of sites that my kids like, and that we like too: