TV Turnoff Week, April 21st-27th
April 18, 2008
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.
Hockey playoffs are underway every evening, so I don't think my husband would be happy to lose the TV next week, for his hour or so every evening!
We have only two channels, and before we had kids I considered satellite. Once they were born, though, I started to see the advantages of only two channels, neither of which has much to offer, especially for kids. We supplement that with DVDs from the library (we can order almost anything, or so it seems, via ILL) and from Zip.ca, the Canadian Netflix, which is nice because it avoids commercials and I get to determine the content.
For us, I guess the key is not to go without TV for week once a year, but to practice mindful viewing all year, just as we do mindful eating and such, with moderation in all things and an emphasis on good quality. I tend not to have much luck (or patience) with temporary "all or nothing" approaches. Cranky as always!
Posted by: Becky | April 18, 2008 at 07:44 PM
My son doesn't watch any t.v at all, but oddly enough, he is absolutely fascinated by advertising. I think he'll be an MBA one of these days. [shudder]
I think the going without can be a useful "shock to the system" to make people realize how much they depend on something. Although we go without computers for a week every year during family camp and it doesn't bother me one bit.
Posted by: Wendy | April 18, 2008 at 07:55 PM
Hi, Becky and Wendy. I'm looking forward to a TVless week. I think it will help a lot in terms of thinking about what we want to watch in the future. Occasionally I prefer the all-or-nothing approach; it's the way I quit smoking years ago. The bigger challenge is going to be for me to reduce my own computer time. We'll see...
Posted by: Susan T. | April 19, 2008 at 01:12 PM
Hello. I'm visiting from Dawn's site. This past Lent my 13 year old decided (on his own!) to completely give up television. My husband and I weren't sure he'd be able to do it, and we kept offering him an out: "maybe give up television only during the week"; or "why don't you just give up a few of your favorite shows". But he was adamant . . . and he was successful.
Next year during Lent I think we'll try it as a family . . . at least during the week!
Posted by: bia | April 19, 2008 at 04:53 PM
Hi, Bia. Thanks for visiting. That's the kind of decision I hope my son will choose to make when he's older! That's excellent that your son had success. What did he do instead of watching TV?
Posted by: Susan T. | April 20, 2008 at 09:24 AM
Thanks so much for joining in with the TV Turnoff Challenge. I hope a week away from the box will indeed help you more efficiently manage Junior's viewing. That's a great plan! I look forward to reading about how it goes for you. Good luck!
Posted by: Mom Unplugged | April 20, 2008 at 10:50 AM
What a cool idea! I've never done it, but maybe I will this summer. I am sure I would get more writing done as a result.
Posted by: Carla Sarratt | April 20, 2008 at 03:49 PM
Mom Unplugged, I'm looking forward to the week. We've already got our eye on a small garden that needs to be dug.
Carla, I'll let you know how it goes. I'm hoping I read more books!
Posted by: Susan T. | April 20, 2008 at 04:09 PM
Good luck, but most of all, GOOD FOR YOU! Doing the RIGHT thing as a parent is certainly not the EASY thing.
Posted by: Mary Lee | April 20, 2008 at 08:54 PM
I love it that TV turn-off week exists! We don't have a tv ourselves, but we have our laptops and plenty of access to DVDs and YouTube videos. It is so tempting after the responsibilities of the day to mellow out with something that doesn't necessarily require thought. As Bongo said in a Life in Hell comic, "When you're tired, tv does the playing for you."
Posted by: Alkelda | April 21, 2008 at 12:57 AM
Thanks for the encouragement, Mary Lee! We made a list of Things to Do Other Than Watching TV. Tonight's alternative activity is cooking hamburgers, with Jr. as the chef--that will make him much happier than any television program.
So, true, Alkelda. No TV? You guys are my heroes! Did you recently give it up or have you been TV-free for a while?
Posted by: Susan T. | April 21, 2008 at 10:53 AM
Susan-- We have a small house, so when we moved from our apartment to our house, the tv just seemed to engulf the living room. Before my daughter was born, I said, "I want this thing downstairs." (It clinched matters when a friend came over with her son, and asked me to turn on the tv for him. The only channel we had was PBS, but still....) So, we brought it downstairs and kept it to watch movies. However, after our daughter was born, we really didn't use it at all. We gave the tv to my brother, and started watching movies on our laptop with a splitter. It's worked out pretty well. She's seen some videos where I've sat next to her, but there were two times last year in which movies were played at other people's houses, and she really started fixating on the images to the point where she got "stuck." Both times I'd allowed her to see the movies against my better judgement (because the other kid were watching and I didn't want to be a stick in the mud that ruined everyone's fun). It's not that movies are bad, or that she'll never have screen time, but in these early years, we've really seen how videos just aren't good for her. It's hard to explain to other people-- they think we're judging /them/, maybe. I do get frustrated with how prevalent it is outside of other people's homes-- in airports, restaurants, stores, etc., where we have no control over the images being presented. We were assured that "Totoro" was the best movie ever for children, but my daughter obsessed over it and worried about the "soot gremlins" for 2 months.
Posted by: Alkelda | April 21, 2008 at 11:08 AM
Alkelda, I know exactly what you mean about the videos' not being good for your daughter; that's the way I see some of the cable cartoons right now. It's a very individual kind of thing.
I really dislike the ubiquitous TVs in airports. Hardly anyone is paying attention to them, and often the noise competes with the official announcements.
Posted by: Susan T. | April 22, 2008 at 10:27 AM