My TV Has Surrendered

It occurred to me that it is now April, and therefore National TV Turnoff Week is coming up. I had just checked the dates and was ready to get the girls all geared up for it, but we don't even have a TV now. Last Friday, Ellie was home sick from school. She snuggled up on the sofa with her pillow and blanket and cartoons. My mom was coming over to sit with her because Ellie has had more sick days than I could call off lately. As I was getting ready for work I noticed the TV turned to static and then went black. I thought Ellie had rolled over the remote? No. The TV died. It died. I got up and walked up to it to see if I could turn it on with the power button, but it smelled like burnt electronics. And so, Darrin immediately starting shopping for the recently coveted large flat-screen. I told him, "No hurry, I really wouldn't want a brand new kick butt boob tube just in time for the one week of the year that we don't watch it." Here we are, one week later, and we haven't missed it one bit. So here is one of many web pages to check out if anyone is interested?

April 18-24, 2011

The week has evolved into more than just not watching TV. No screens? The kids think this means you absolutely cannot use a computer. I disagree. No games. No surfing. Fine, but I will use it with discretion.

Following is my story of how it all began in our family. Please leave a comment to let me know... if you think the idea is absolutely insane and would not consider it.... if you think it's a good idea, but not personally interested.... or perhaps - I've never heard of anyone doing this before, but I'm going to give it a shot!

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 imagintation, 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.


Mary said...

Hi Patti - As a grandma, watching 3 babies, I do not think I could turn off the TV for a week w/o having a complete meltdown - LOL But that being said I can turn if off for an hour or two and work my way up to a full day - it might be interesting. We actually have only a few shows (cartoons) we watch - it's really more like G-rated noise for the house. Now that it's getting warm -we wont be in the house as much. Now that's the babies - me at home - not so sure I can do that, I have a few shows I watch DVRed - and that's it - I have been trying to catch up on my reading :) I actually have relatives that do not even own TV's - LOL how unamerican - LOL Great post - really made me think about TV :)

'becca said...

i think i could keep the TV off for a week ... but i'm pretty sure my roommate wouldn't go for that. and if she's got it turned on, i have a really hard time not sitting down to watch it, too. so unless i wanted to take up a serious napping habit (to avoid the TV in the living room), i'd have a really hard time making it for a week. :)

Frank E Donor said...

Holy cow, I think you all may have an addiction. I've lived TV free for over 20 years. Tell me again what it is I'm missing...My kids are always amazed at friends who have a television in their bedroom or or big one, at the center piece to their "living" room. If we can do it in Michigan, certainly anyone can live without it in Indiana.

Viola Ash said...

hello. i dont know why but i want to say here that i havent watched tv since 2008. I left home and went to college in 2008 and maybe because i could not afford to buy a tv cause i was broke all the time - but yup.. no TV for me since then. and its wonderful.