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Question of the Week -- Turning the TV Off

This week is TV Turnoff Week. My daughter's pre-school is encouraging participation, and I signed a pledge sheet for 6 days of no TV. Although the dates I've seen online say the week is April 19-25, the dates that the Pumpkin's school said was April 18-24. I've pledged 6 days, and we started on Sunday.

Although the kids don't watch a lot of TV (and the Pookie really doesn't watch any--just sometimes notices it if it's on a kids show), I worry that it's too easy to use as a distraction technique in our house.

I'm having a difficult morning juggling the Pumpkin and the Pookie and I just want to finish doing my make up? I put the TV on for the Pumpkin and set the Pookie in front of toys. The Pumpkin's having a break down because the Pookie is getting all my attention and she needs my help (like this morning)? I put on the TV to calm her down and buy me a few more minutes to concentrate on the baby. Or I need to run around and gather the last few things before we head out the door, and she wants to come with me but that will make everything take longer? I put the TV on to entertain her in the family room so I can run upstairs and down without her.

And those are just some examples from the morning. I won't even get into the afternoons when Londo watches both kids, takes work calls and sends work emails, fixes dinner and gets the kids to the table to eat.

TV does make our lives easier, and there are times I would not give it up (like last year during the winter with my difficult pregnancy). But I want to see what will happen if we keep the TV off for the week. Not only to force us parents to find other ways of dealing with situations, but also to see if there are any behavioral changes in the kid(s). So I pushed us to turn off the TV this week. It won't be easy, but I'm hoping it will be an interesting experiment.

But not only did I pledge to turn the TV off for the kids, but I've decided to try and do it myself. I honestly don't think it will be that hard for me. There are plenty of days I go without TV, instead opting to read in the evenings or go to bed early. I did not pledge to reduce my computer screen time, so I still have my blogs, websites and computer games. I will be missing some shows I really enjoy, but I'll catch them on DVR or in re-runs.

Which brings me to the Question of the Week:

What is/would be the hardest thing for you about going without TV for a week?

Sure it's going to be difficult to not fall back into the easy TV routine of distraction and entertainment. But for me, the hardest part is not spending time I hanging out and watching shows with Londo... because Londo has not pledged to turn off the TV for himself. He is absolutely accommodating my pledge and our pledge for the kids, so if we are around, he turns the TV off. But the TV is the main thing he uses to unwind in the evenings. It's usually how he gets his brain distracted enough to fall asleep at night. His TV usage does not interfere with his reading, computer time, family time, work or socialization, so he is not concerned about his TV usage.

Londo pointed out to me this is probably not going to be that hard for me because TV is not how I unwind--the computer usually is. He challenged me to see if I could cut out recreational computer usage next week. I agreed with caveats. I will not use the computer outside of work except for emergency work that may come up. And at work, I will check some blogs and post on my own blog, because I feel those are more than recreational computer usage. I feel that the blogging with other parents is a social network in which we provide support for each other. In addition, posting regularly keeps me in the practice of writing, which is necessary for my sanity. Finally, I blog about our kids, and I don't want to lose the opportunity to record things that are going on with them.

You'll notice I'm not planning on going without both TV and computer at the same time. We're not crazy, you know!

What about you? If your TV broke or your cable went down for a week, what would be the hardest part? Do you use TV to unwind? Keep up with current events? Give you a break from the kids? Come on, share your pain!


Jac said…
At the moment, TV is definitely a coping mechanism for handling toddler and morning sickness. In the morning, while I am barfing, he gets to watch TV. In the evening, when all I want to do is lie down, he watches TV then too. For a long time, he watched 1/2 an hour on weekdays (while I make dinner) and about 1.5 hours on weekend days so I could enjoy my morning cofee and newspapers. I was okay with this amount of television watching. Now? About two hours a day on weekdays (an hour in morning, and an hour around dinner time). And about (gulp) 3 - 4 hours a day on weekend. I feel badly about it. Hopefully, I will only feel like crap for another month or so and the weather is starting to brighten up so it will be a lot easier to get out doors.
Becoming Mommy said…
I only have the one child and we do not have another on the way, so it's probably pretty easy for me to cope with no TV.
Yes, Sasha has gotten used to watching certain programs at specific points in his schedule (thanks to DVR, it doesn't have to be a specific time of day). But, I find if I have something he considers MORE fun (riding his bike, baking, etc.) he's happy to forgo it. I mostly use TV myself to wind down, but I find I can get the same from reading...I just need that quiet, sitting time letting my mind delve into some storyline.
Hubby has more trouble. He doesn't seem to have as much luck getting Sasha involved in an activity so he can either shower, do a chore, or just have a moment to breathe.
Lynnette said…
I could do without TV for the most part, but you will pry my MLB package baseball games from my cold, dead eyes. Seriously.
hush said…
I feel like TV gets a bad rap. It can be extremely educational & entertaining, in moderation. I use TV as a form of relaxation. Our 29 mo old son watches TV with us while we are trying to get him to fall asleep; he is not terribly interested in it. There are a handful of shows I either record on my DVR, or rent, and watch whenever I get the chance (rarely): Lost, Mad Men, True Blood, Justified. When I was pregnant and exhausted all the time I used TV to occasionally distract my high-energy son - and I have absolutely no regrets about that!!!
Anonymous said…
One word: Glee.
Katie said…
I've been using TV as a distraction/coping mechanism for far too long... and I'm not planning to stop any time soon. There was my brief pregnancy and miscarriage last fall, during which I was on bedrest... and now it looks like I may be heading into another round of morning sickness (shhh! it's looking good, but not solid yet). We mostly watch movies, not TV shows, and half the time it's pure background noise. We actually very seldom have the TV on in the evenings; I watched more actual TV during the Olympics than I had in years!

If our TV died? It wouldn't be fun, but we'd cope. If we lost internet.... that would be much more difficult.
paola said…
We don't watch a great deal of telly. The kids get around 40 minutes a day, sometimes more sometimes less, particularly in winter. Now with the good weather they might only get a 20 minute episode of 'Bear'.

I use it mainly for keeping up with what's going on in the world, although the news program I 'watch' is on at a time that the kids are at their most boisterous so it more background noise.

Oh and unwinding definitely. Apart from Current Affairs and News we mainly watch stuff we have found around the traps like 'Secret Diary of a Call Girl' or 'Greys Anatomy'. It is almost impossible to find anything decent on Italian tv despite the million and one channels.
mom2boy said…
TV in the am so I can finish getting ready and us out the door and movies on the weekend so I can sit down next to him for a bit. I'm not sure I would be able to give up those two things. Well, actually I'm sure I could but I don't think the benefit would outweigh the cost, truthfully. We have yet to watch a whole movie on the weekends, about 30-45 minutes is the max he'll sit still but since he doesn't take naps on the weekends, that 30-45 minutes of just chill time is really good for us both.
I could handle a week of non-school related computer restriction as long as I got to keep my phone - but that's cheating, right? :)
Toni said…
Sorry, no help here: we don't have a TV. It broke when I was pregnant, 5 years ago. It's easier that way. I don't have to avoid getting sucked into it and wasting time. And I don't have to argue with the older one that he only gets 2 hours per week. 4 year old can't count time well. Our rule is one (short) movie on Saturdays, and sometimes on Sunday, or if he's sick. We see movie on the computers.
Melba said…
I agree with hush... tv does get a bad rap. Why is it that we think tv is so bad and we should feel guilty about letting our kids watch it? Right now Caillou is on (not sure if anyone gets that outside of Canada?), it let me shower and dress myself and the baby, and it actually teaches some pretty good lessons to my 2 yo that I've actually seen her use. And (and this is kind of lame) it gives me ideas for activities I can do with my kids. I have trouble coming up with stuff but Caillou's parents always have good ideas!

Anyway, if we lost tv, it would completely disrupt this household. This sounds bad but I don't know how I would get both kids and myself ready in the morning, and keep my own sanity, without it. And I don't really feel guilty about letting my child watch good quality shows that teach her life lessons.
caramama said…
@Jac - I remember when I was pregnant last winter, we used the TV A LOT! At the Pumpkin's two-year check-up, I mentioned that she was watching a lot of TV to get us through this period, and the doctor said, "That's fine. It's not like she's watching 5 hours a day or anything." And although I said, "Right," I was thinking, well some days it is probably up to 5 hours! We do what we have to to get through it.

@Becoming Mommy - That's the same for us about the Pumpkin being used to TV at points in her schedule, but she usually enjoys other things more. She is highly active, after all.

@Lynnette - Haha! That's my husband (and used to be me) during football season!

@hush - I agree that it gets a bad rap. Certainly, there are people and kids who use way too much inappropriately. There are studies out there saying why it is bad (Cloud, where are you with some science?). There are some really great programs for kids, and it is nice to watch to relax. AND you are watching Justified? WE LOVE THAT SHOW! You should email me offline so we can talk about it, though I did miss it this week.

@cirquedubebe (La Folle Maman) - I hear such good things about Glee! I will have to check it out one of these days.

@Katie - Oh, girl! My fingers are crossed so tight! I'm with you on the internet. That would definitely be harder for me.

@paola - When I lived in Italy, there were like 3 channels (RAI 1, 2 and 3, if I recall correctly). And never anything good on. We watched the BBC news in the wee hours of the morning or The X-Files which was dubbed with Italian. I had seen all the X-Files (they were a season or two behind), so I would explain what was going on in each episode. But we were poor college kids and didn't watch much TV or need to distract children.

@mom2boy - I'm realizing that the benefit of no TV is not outweighing the cost (great way to put it). This week has been good to open my eyes to that.

@Toni - I'm so impressed! I've always been a TV person, and my husband is too. I couldn't imagine no TV at all!

@Melba - I love Caillou, and so does the Pumpkin! There are some really great shows on which are educational and teach social behavoir. I found that it was more usual in that way than books on a few occassions, especially when the Pumpkin was younger. And I've also gotten good activities and songs from TV shows!
Cloud said…
I was on vacation! I don't have the studies on the top of my head, anyway. I do remember one study by an economist that found that TV viewing was not detrimental, but that relied on data from when TV was first introduced, so very different sort of shows than what we have now (in both good and bad ways).

I think a lot of the studies that show harm have focused on depictions of violence, but maybe also on the impact on attention span. I can't remember.

And there are certainly studies that show that advertising works on kids, but that is no surprise.

In my household, I don't think I could get dinner made without TV. I need the ~20 minutes Dora provides at the end of the day to get things going in the kitchen.

Also, we use DVDs a lot, but they're all educational. Pumpkin's current favorite is a "learn Chinese" DVD, which we're using in conjunction with some Chinese lessons.

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