We like television here at Chicken Spaghetti, but the time has come to try turning off the set for a little while. If I get brave, I am going to cut way back on the cable subscription, too. Because of homework (or, rather, his delay in doing it), Junior does not have much time to watch TV after school, but most of what he does watch does not benefit him. At 8, he's gotten too old for programs like "Arthur" and "Clifford," and that leaves us with the edgier world of cable, with its endless parade of bleeped out cursing and, er, digestive problems, not to mention advertising. (The "News at 5" shows/car wrecks/scandal-reporting are no better.) Plus, I think the frantic pace of some of the shows does not have a good effect on my fella's impressionable little brain. I have seen too many dips in behavior after TV-watching not to believe this.
The truth of it is this. Junior's TV watching benefits me. It occupies him while I cook dinner or type on the computer or read. But I had a wake-up call recently when he asked for Sealy Posturpedic Mattress because they're more comfortable than the one he has. "What?" I said, and he repeated his request. We then had a talk about ads and how they try to sell things to people. It was not the first of this kind of talk, but somehow the message had not sunk in.
Junior groaned when I told him about TV Turnoff Week. Then he said, "That's not fair!" Not exactly the reaction I'd envisioned, but that's okay. I hope that a week without TV will help us figure out something better for him to do when he needs to entertain himself. I don't plan on outlawing the tube forever, but a week will give Junior's dad and me some time to figure out alternatives and perhaps a better TV routine.
Our plans? Spend as much time outdoors as possible. My personal goal is to spend less time on the computer. I'll just have to blog, um, more efficiently.
If you want inspiration to shut off the set at your house, I highly recommend The Big Turnoff: Confessions of a TV-Addicted Mom Trying to Raise a TV-Free Kid, by Ellen Currey-Wilson (Algonquin Books, 2007). It's a really funny, non-preachy memoir written by a veteran watcher of "Gilligan's Island" and countless other programs. The author knew that she watched too much TV (and had watched too much all her life), and did not want the same for her son. Her biggest obstacle is not her son's viewing habits but her own—and the reasons for them. I came across the book at Lemuria, a bookstore in Jackson, Miss., and ironically, read a lot of it on the plane home when Junior was plugged into a DVD movie. Clearly I have a way to go, too.
The blog Unplug Your Kids offers suggestions for a TV-free week, and people are registering there to participate in a blog challenge. I notice that Ellen Currey-Wilson herself signed up. Although it's not updated that often, her blog has good resources and information; don't miss it.
Good luck to all the others participating this week. When the Turnoff turns back on, I'll let you know how we fared. In the mean time, I'll keep talking about books.