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April 21, 2008

Turn Off the TV!

J0432431 “You don’t have TV?!” This is the usual response from people when they hear we don’t “have TV.” We are strange and probably one of the few families in this area with this setup. That’s right. No TV. No CNN, no ABC, no PBS no TLC—nada! We have an actual TV set which is hooked up to the DVD player for our very limited DVD selection, but it is not actually hooked up to cable, bunny ears, satellite, or anything else.

I try not to talk about it—mainly because it usually leads to a long explanation—but since this week is TV Turn Off week, I figured I’d share a bit on how, why and what we actually do all day.

The decision was made before my husband and I were married—more than eight years ago—that once we had children, the TV would go away. This was actually a deal where I would give up the TV if he would go to church with me every other week. I can’t even tell you the last time he’s set foot in a church. Clearly, he got the better deal.

He grew up without a TV. As a result, he is a voracious reader who whizzed through his law school books

Even with no TV, our house is certainly not quiet. So what do I do with with kids?  I just let them get underfoot; and in the evening when I really have to get dinner on the table or what not, I do stick a DVD in that’s usually 30-45 minutes long. That helps get dinner on the table and/or get it cleaned up. And what DVDs do my kids watch? Well, funny enough, while they love watching Backyardigans or Charlie and Lola now and then, they really love the classics and are happy with 30 minutes of The Music Man, Sound of Music, Singing in the Rain or even some of the classic black and whites like Shirley Temple or silent movies. I know, I told you we're strange.

My kids enjoy playing outside, doing puzzles, listening to music + dancing, pretend play (lots of princesses, dragons, knights, superheroes, astronauts, explorers, etc. in this house) and just general wandering around.

Last week, while pondering this post, I looked around to see how prevalent TV is in America today. It's everywhere, even for people like me, who choose not to have it. It's at the gym, gas stations, daycares, restaurants, malls. Unless you're outside, it's hard to go anywhere without seeing one. We're all so used to the background "noise" they provide while we shop, clean, have dinner, work. Why are we so afraid to turn them off? Do we fear the silence? Are we afraid of what we'll do instead of watching or listening? Are we afraid to communicate with people 1:1 or simply just sort through our thoughts?

Just think of all the things you might actually accomplish in the silence of your daily life sans TV. You might be surprised how not silent—and busy—it is.

faster than anyone else. He credits this to not having TV as a child. Instead of Saturday morning cartoons to waste time, he read to keep entertained. So, once our son was born four years ago, the TV went bye bye. (Sniff sniff) It was a sad moment for me.

Friends of mine often ask how I get anything done during the day with no TV to entertain my kids. Good question because my answer is: Who the hell knows? My kids are pretty decent at entertaining themselves, but I struggle many times wishing I had Noggin or Disney or even PBS kids to turn on and keep them quiet while I do any number of things.

There are all kinds of reports fed to us about TV viewing and its implications on children. We as parents know and read about this. The whole Baby Einstein ordeal of children not watching any TV or videos before age 2. Certain content not being age appropriate—either too old or too young. Or the fact that too much TV could lead to ADD, ADHD or even speech delays. Obviously, TV has become such a permanent fixture in so many households—in every room on every floor and daily life revolves around the TV.

Since it left our house, I have changed my tune about the TV and am now deeply happy we don't have it. I'm amazed at how much time I have for reading, writing,  chores, catching up on email, calling friends, talking to my husband, reading to my children, and listening to music. I can't say it adds hours to my day, but it does seem to cut out some of the wasted time I used to spend.

But I don't attest to be a complete TV hater. I'm the first to admit I sometimes miss TV. There are evenings when my brain is fried from dealing with kids and writing a book that I would love to do nothing more than just sit in front of the "boob tube" and do nothing. But one of the reasons the TV is gone is because I could sit and watch it all day. (I have no self control.) Some nights, I do watch a Netflix movie or a show online from ABC just for some pure entertainment.

But this week, in honor of turning off the TV, I'm going to make an effort to keep it off the whole week--even free from DVDs and online shows. My kids are tired of our same rotation of shows and movies anyway. And with the beautiful spring weather, it should be easier to keep it off and just go outside to play.

Original DC Metro Moms post.

Linda doesn't write about TV on her blog Monkey Business, but she loves to write about spending time outside with her kids.   

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