TV Turnoff Week

It’s National TV Turnoff Week. I’ve got to admit, when I read this announcement to my husband today, we both sort or shrugged and said, “Eh, that’s not really us.”

We are a bit behind the times. Just a few years ago, my mother-in–law accused us of living in the 1950s. It’s only in the last two years that we’ve gotten cell phones and rid ourselves of ridiculously slow dial-up. And so far we’ve avoided the manacles of cable TV.

I do however see the effects of TV on my children—my 4-year-old, Gabe, in particular. Like us, he doesn’t watch often, maybe one or two hours a week. But not a day goes by that he doesn’t ask if he can watch TV or play computer games online. And when I say, “No,” he responds, “What? No screen time AT ALL?!?” As if I were denying him food, light, friendship. He starts first thing in the morning and will ask several times throughout the course of the day. Of course, the more he asks, the more likely my answer will be “no.” I’m perverse that way.

So I can see how it could be a problem; especially in a family where TV watching is more the norm. I was curious to read some statistics from the Center for Screen-Time Awareness:

• Number of 30-second commercials seen in a year by an average child: 20,000
• Number of minutes per week that parents spend in meaningful conversation with their children: 38.5
• Number of minutes per week that the average child watches television: 1,680
• Percentage of children ages 6-17 who have TV's in their bedrooms: 50
• Percentage of day care centers that use TV during a typical day: 70
• Hours per year the average American youth spends in school: 900 hours
• Hours per year the average American youth watches television: 1500
• Percentage of Americans that regularly watch television while eating dinner: 66

This doesn’t make me feel smug. I get it. This was my family growing up. I remember how awkward it felt on the rare night my mother would insist on turning off the TV during dinner. How we all stared at our plates, our hands, or out the window. Not really knowing how—or even wanting—to deal with each other. It’s a tough habit to break. (And while I’m not big on TV, I waste way more time on the computer than I care to admit.)

We live in a time-crunched culture. But some of our biggest time-eaters are our computer, TV, and phone screens. What could our lives be like without these distractions?

1. Volunteer in a school to teach reading, math, computer skills.
2. Learn to play the guitar or other musical instrument.
3. Attend community concerts.
4. Organize a community clean-up.
5. Put together a puzzle.
6. Visit the library. Borrow a book. Attend library activities.
7. Go ice skating or roller skating.
8. Listen to the radio.
9. Visit the zoo.
10. Paint a picture, a mural or a room.
11. Attend a high school sporting event.
12. Find out about your area's community center or park's activities.
13. Go swimming. Join a community swim team.
14. Read a book aloud to your younger sister/brother.
15. Plan a picnic or barbecue.
16. Go bird watching.
17. Volunteer for a community organization or charity.
18. Play with your pet.
19. Go dancing.
20. Write a letter to a friend or relative.
21. Learn to cook.
22. Plant a flower, vegetable or herb garden.
23. Read magazines or newspapers.
24. Plan a slumber party.
25. Start a neighborhood basketball, soccer, or kickball game.
26. Go camping (even if it's just in the backyard!).
27. Join a choir.
28. Go through your closets and clothes. Donate surplus items to Goodwill, the Salvation Army or a local rummage sale.
29. Start a diary/journal.
30. Go to a museum.
31. Take a nature hike. Collect seeds and leaves. Make a collage with the materials you collected and post it on the refrigerator.
32. Play cards.
33. Start a community exercise group that power walks, runs, or bikes.
34. Read a story to your younger brother or sister.
35. Get out the family photo album. Research your family history.
36. Go listen to a local band.
37. Make crafts to give as gifts.
38. Make up a story and write it down.
39. Learn to say simple phrases in a few different languages.
40. Ask an older family member to tell you a story about his or her childhood. Write about it.
41. Learn some new riddles or jokes.
42. Bake two batches of cookies; one for your family and one for a neighbor.
43. Watch the night sky through binoculars; identify the different constellations. Observe the moon.
44. Visit a local bookstore.
45. Go to a movie with your family or friends.
46. Walk to work or school.
47. Start a kids bowling league.
48. Train for a 5K race.
49. Teach a neighbor about a computer program.
50. Go fishing.
51. Begin a family project.
52. Just BE.

"I really didn't like TV-Turnoff Week except that I did notice
that my grades went up and I was in a good mood all week."
—Second grader Drew Henderson, Donora, PA

It’s TV Turnoff Week. What are you going to do with yourself?


MightyToyCannon said...

I think what I'll do is sit in front of the TV with my laptop atop my lap, twittering about what I'm watching.

Jenny Wren said...

Ha, ha, ha! That's ok. I'm watching Glee (oh, and simultaneously checking my email).

Stephen said...

Lovely post, but during the "New Austerity Program" & with the help of DVR, I have never enjoyed TV more:
RuPaul's Drag Race
Top Chef Masters
The Amazing Race
Chelsea Lately
the now departed- Ugly Betty
Mad Men
Jon Stewart
Spartacus: Blood & Sand (basically gay porn)
The Marriage Ref
Modern Family

a cornucopia of cheap entertainment delights