Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Tuning Out TV Tune Out Week

It's that time of the year again: TV Tune Out week. For one week, beginning March 6, my children and I are asked by a local educational alliance not to watch any TV, play any video games or otherwise interact with any screens. So, here I sit, at my computer, with House Hunters on the TV in the background.
I hate TV Tune Out week. The first year we did it I pinned my Tune Out badge to my shirt and made sure that my children didn't watch any TV at all. Instead we participated in the suggested activities in our handy "TV Tune Out" handbook. We took a tour of the local police station, went to a craft class at the library, took a free music class, decorated cookies at a bakery, and generally patronized the businesses that offered some kind of deal or freebie for the Tuned Out kids.
The second year we decided that a half-hour of TV each day of TV Tune Out week wouldn't hurt anyone. I justified it by saying that the kids had done such a good job not watching TV, they deserved a reward, like watching some TV. We did a few of the suggested activities, but not many. Many of the activities were scheduled in the morning hours when the kids were at school, and the other activities were scheduled after 4:00 p.m., which conflicted with watching Avatar.

Last year I didn't even tell the kids it was TV Tune Out week. The sad truth is, I need for my kids to have a bit of TV time most days. March is still the dead of winter in Chicago, and we don't get to spend as much time outside as we'd like; I'd be much more supportive of this Tune Out business if we could do it in July or August. And whereas I'm all for having kids foster their imaginations and creativity through boredom, there's only so much of them pretending to be Velcro-ed to me that I can take before I want to gouge my eyes with popsicle craft sticks
I've given TV a lot of thought. I think that most people would be much more productive, creative and social if TV didn't exist, or if they could limit it to less than an hour a day. We're one of the few families I know with only one TV in the entire house, and most of my friends think we're either monastic or nuts. Unless we get to the point where we ban the TV altogether, it's here, and it's here to watch. The trick is going to be how to watch it in moderation.
I'm rededicating my efforts this year, but know that I won't make it through the entire week. The kids didn't watch any TV at all today despite asking, whining and begging about it for most of the day. At some point, though, my younger son must have drank the Kool-Aid, because I overheard him explaining to his whimpering older brother that too much TV can rot a child's brain, causing it to leak right his ears. Maybe he came up with that imaginative description when he was bored to tears, rolling on the kitchen floor and telling me that he had nothing to do?
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