21 April 2008

Turnoff Week starts, uh, today! Some thoughts and resources.

How did I let Turnoff Week sneak up on me like this? And does anyone else find it funny (in a sad way) that it's no longer called "TV Turnoff Week" because there are so many more things to turn off?

I fully support the idea of Turnoff Week, and yet we've never followed through with a week of no screens. Why? In general, I feel ok about it -- my kids have a collective hour of screen time per day (30 minutes each of TV, video games, and/or computer play) which I consider to be just fine in terms of balance and health. We are also a highly-Netified family, so family discussions are often followed up by Google searches or visits to YouTube.

But when I look at it more closely (and I'm honest with myself), the idea of completely disconnecting the electronic entertainment for a week makes me nervous. I could care less about watching TV, but my kids are very attached to that daily episode of Cyberchase, and I find myself anxious about the consequences of taking it away, even temporarily. So while I could look the other way, I have to admit that my kids aren't the only ones with an unhealthy attachment to screen time.

For those of you looking for a little support, the Tessy & Tab Reading Club has a great Turnoff Week resource site up for parents of preschoolers, complete with charts, ideas, and printables. This would also be a great week to visit my favorite easy craft sources, FamilyFun and Kids Craft Weekly. Take a troll through the Parent Hacks archives for good ideas. Finally, don't be afraid to expose your kids to a little boredom. It's the best motivator for creativity there ever was.

Related:
In praise of boredom
It's TV-Turnoff Week (cringe) [2006]
TV Turnoff Week: What's your plan? [2007]

Your comments

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It figures that it would start on the day after the night my kid spent puking in bed without notifying me. I will not be participating this year, as I am already a few hours deep into TurnOn Week.

I think Turnoff Week is fine for bringing attention to the fact that we as a public watch too much TV and sit idly in front of computers too much. But in a real world, quality of content is more important than amount of time, don't you think?

My kids (4 and 7) don't watch TV daily and they aren't hooked on any TV routine. But my 7 year old does use the computer often. There are two or three websites that are approved for him to use, and I find him playing games and doing activities that are non-violent and that use his brain in much the same way as any board game/card game/craft activity might do.

Obesity is not likely to be a problem for him. So what is the evidence left to support me limiting it?

Teachers have mentioned that fine motor skills are not being developed when you play checkers on line like they would be in a 'hard copy' checkers game. Okay.. maybe. But what else?

I honestly think that an hour a day shows a good balance. I view the TV, Computer, Game console, etc, as any other appliance in the house. You turn them on when you need them then you turn them off when you're done. Some days you might need to run the washer for the entire day, some (rare) days it sits idle. Same with TV - some days you might need it to be on for four or six hours (watching a baseball game on Saturday afternoon, keeping a sick child entertained and quiet) then other days it need not come on at all.

"TurnOff" week, per se, has never really appealed to me. I'm more of a fan of "all things in moderation" than "Kill Your TV" type extremism.

Rather than disconnect entirely for one week, think about strategically disconnecting technologies that distract your family from quality time together?

I blogged about this recently here: http://www.personal.psu.edu/lnm105/blogs/smallparts/2008/04/the-practice-of-technological.html

We found reducing the number of TVs in the house resulted in us watching more content, and commenting on it, together as a family. I have no problem with my children watching some television if I can pre-screen the content and explain it as they watch.

Removing cordless phones reduced the length of telephone calls and also resulted in us screening calls over important times like mealtimes and bedtime story time.

We made a rule last year this week that there would be no TV watching/computer time while the sun was up, and no screen time an hour before bed. Basically the only time we watched television that summer was when it was raining. In August we canceled our cable and got rid of our rabbit-ears-antenna.

We don't miss it. Not one bit.

Now we watch one or two DVDs a week. Plus maybe an hour computer time weekly.

We have a 5 yr old and a 7 yr old. Some of the research I've done supporting Screen-Free living for small children talks about eye-sight development. Little eyes are made to focus on things farther away and too much/too close isn't good (this includes too much time with noses in books.) Also, attention-span training. We've created a new daily ritual of spending at least an hour a day snuggling on the couch reading great books. Also, I've noticed a marked increase in creativity in their imaginary play.

I feel my parenting skills have improved. I was using TV as a baby-sitter and a crutch.

For us, it changed our lives. I like it better this way! Now we spend the $50 a month that we were paying for cable on books!

Not everyone needs to take it as far as we did, but please try it! It can be a refreshing change of pace.

No TV during the NHL playoffs? I think I will honor this fine effort two months from now! :o)

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