We have not watched TV for more than six months, not out of a statement against society or any overt religious injunction, but a simple desire to have a more meaningful marriage and family in the face of a busy life. M is frustrated with the poor programs, violence and commercialism. I simply quit watching because of lack of time. I can’t fold clothes or wash the dishes or cook while the TV is on. If I love a program, I have to sit and watch it until it ends, no interruptions — and my life is all about interruptions at home.
M came from a home literally saturated with TV for most of his childhood and adult life. The first time I went to his folks’ house to ‘meet the parents’, I was shocked at how they eat dinner without looking or talking to each other, instead, all eyes were fixed in their television set near the dining table. Everyone would occassionally fight for the remote control. I was left out and appalingly disgusted with that way of life.
It’s different in the house where I grew up. TV time is limited to Friday evenings and Saturdays only. Weekday TV viewing ends once the 6 o’clock news is over in an hour. That was at least until my father got more lenient with the house rules and just ‘let go’. The endpoint, children born during that ‘dark times without TV’ are more directed to reading books and saving on appliance budget. I and two younger brothers can live without TV, one brother independently living in Tokyo do not own a TV set.
Before M and I decided to turn it completely off, I was debating the fact that as a pre-schooler, the time Pristine spends watching Sesame Street, Thomas the Train and Barney was helping her learning process.
But at what point do we cross the line of offering our children an alternative learning opportunity to using the ‘idiot box’ as an electronic baby sitter? Using TV as a device with which parents are abnegating their duty to interact one-to-one with their child is not uncommon. Many parents admit to using the children’s love of television to their advantage. It keeps children busy, it helps parents stay longer in bed on weekends. I plead guilty and promised we’ll do something about it last year.
Would you believe American children and adolescents spend 22-28 hours per week viewing television? That’s three to four hours a day! Don’t you think children should be passing this time interacting in other healthier activities?
Our family is faring well without the television. I admit, I missed watching dramas and the Olympics but religiously followed the events by reading the newspaper. I see no problem with news video feeds, too.
Our three year old is at home now for two weeks until Summer term starts on the 22nd. There is a lot of free time where a variety of recreational activities we planned for her last week by M and me. Reading is at the top of the list, going to the nearest park, doing fantasy play, drawing, sketching, taking pictures (she is very adept with the digital camera), playing I-Spy, regular taking care of our pet rabbits and some simple chores.
A TV free home means our full attention to our daughter as she relies on us for company all throughout the day. At first, the idea frightened me. How am I going to keep her entertained all by myself? It was not an easy job. She had withdrawal symptoms as she is used to watching her early morning Japanese version of Sesame-street like shows everyday when she wakes up. I tried to shorten the viewing time to 5 minutes per day for a week. Then replaced tv viewing with taking a stroll around the neighborhood, collecting dried autum leaves, picking up peculiar stones or just simply going out to see the cloud formations for the day. It eventually worked and she looked forward to the morning walks and the storytelling every night.
We love to spend the weekends at the nearby park (this was in Japan)
It was hard having to say no to every turn-on-the-TV request at our previous home, with the TV sitting in its mighty glory in the living room. Gladly, relocation paved way for a much easier task of doing away the set completely. Though we are currently buying furniture to fill our flat, the agenda of buying TV is never there.
So, one obvious question to be raised would be if parents who choose a TV-free home do not feel that their children are missing out on something without the boob tube — The vast majority of responses by parents who turned it off is NO, TV watching families are the ones who are missing out…on life.