4.18.2009

TURN OFF WEEK


TURN OFF WEEK
APRIL 20-26, 2009


The following is a re-print from last year - written earlier than that. I hope I don't sound too preachy, but I don't feel I could say it any better than this. I really just want to present the idea to people and perhaps inspire. I don't ever intend to tell people how to they should live their lives.

TV Turnoff has evolved into "Screentime". Yes, last year I let the girls play Wii and I feel that was a mistake. I think they played more video games than ever. I told them maybe this year we could limit Wii use to only sports and fitness, but we FINALLY have some spring weather so why not ride bikes and play catch?

I also told the girls I will not be going one week without using the computer. But, I will refrain from playing any computer games and I will not spend every morning surfing the internet while I drink my first cup of coffee of the day.


Why would anyone turn of their TV?


I've gotten used to the looks I get when I tell people that I don't have cable TV. It feels a little like I've just told them I am from another planet. But last year when I suggested to a few people that they turn off their TV for one week, they looked at me like I had just asked them to cut off their right hand.

My personal crusade started in 2003, when my four year old daughter came home from playing at the neighbor's house and told me it was "TV Turnoff Week". She informed me we needed to make a sign with and red circle and a line through it, put it on our TV and we couldn't watch TV for a whole week. My husband and I thought it was a great idea, especially since it was suggested by a four year old.

It was an eye-opening experience. Shortly before that, I had started working part-time to spend quality time with my two young daughters. I realized during that week that I needed to question the quality of time spent. Sure, we only watch PBS educational kids shows, but why was the TV on all the time?

The first few days were rough. Emotions ran high. I realized how often I used the TV to shut down emotional outbursts when I could not rationalize with a four year old or a one-and-a-half year old. I also used it to calm them down when they got a little too rambunxious. So the fact is, I was constantly using the TV to distract and sometime mildly sedate them. That is a sad fact. But, still in the first few days of "TV Turnoff Week" during those rough parenting moments I wanted very badly to give up and give in to the easy answer... "Hey look! It's Barney!"

It was a lot of work. I spent much more time dragging out toys, putting them away, cleaning up finger paints and other project supplies.

But, by the end of the week a lot had changed. I noticed a difference in my daughters' attention spans and imaginations. They began to play more independently and for longer periods of time. A new quietness had settled into the house. Everyone was more attentive. We didn't have to compete with the TV for the kids attention or talk over the extra noise. It was so fabulous I keep asking myself, "Why don't we do this more often?"

The truth is, we may have cut back a bit since then, but TV is sometimes more than a bad habit, it is addictive and a tough addiction to overcome.

The following year (2004) we missed TV Turnoff Week because I was not informed of the dates. The year after that (2005) I decided to look it up on the internet, to inform people and to invite them to participate. The next year, (2006) I hardly mentioned it at all because I feel my efforts are futile.

I had remembered seeing an article in the newspaper when I was in my mid-twenties about school kids who were challenged to not watch TV for a short period of time (maybe it was a week). The article was about a few kids who enjoyed it so much they kept going for months! I admired those kids, because at the time I was quite the couch potato. I thought perhaps those 10-12 year olds had more interesting and fulfilled lives than I had.

I do not want to imply that TV is horrible. I am not going to quote statistics that state TV makes people violent, obese or stupid. (All though in excess, I believe all those things are possible.)

I would like to invite everyone to experience the difference that I have experienced. And, I am not just addressing families with small children.

How many of us adults use the TV to distract ourselves from our emotions or shut our minds off from our anxieties? If turning off your TV could improve your attention span and imagination, would you do it?

I cannot suggest that turning off your TV will be easy or make your life instantly more wonderful. But, sometimes the more difficult task is the most worthwhile and rewarding.

1 comment:

Yvetteee said...

4 out of 5 of us have taken the challenge. I'm not mentioning the name of the person that didn't take join us. It's been really hard. Madeline is my TV junkie. I'll post on Friday night and let you know the results..