Monday, March 22, 2010

The Magic Box

I'm not a huge fan of television. OK, so I might actually think is it the root of all evil...and getting worse. The commercials are horrifying, the product placement in shows is horrifying, the shows themselves are mostly horrifying. Before Honey moved in with me almost five years ago, I had several blissful years without any TV in my house. People would always ask how I did so much stuff - I worked full time, and had at least one part time gig at any given moment, had a dog that I walked (for real - at least a few miles) twice a day every day, did stained glass, made jewelery, sewed, gardened, read lots of books, had a decent social life, and did much of the work renovating my house. I always told them it was because I had no TV! Now that we do have one, I know that it is a mind waster, eye destroyer and time sucker. Don't get me wrong - there is a place for TV. A little mindless activity on a nice sick day when you really have no energy to do anything else is a good thing I think.

So the American Academy of Pediatrics recommend that children under the age of two watch ZERO Television. If you have never heard that, take a moment to wonder why. Is it a new statement? Nope - they have been saying that for over 10 years. Is it because no television station will air that news? Hmmm. Of the multiple studies done that have found correlations (careful - correlations are not the same as causation - don't put any words in my mouth here people!) between TV and obesity, aggression, autism, other health problems, and decreased learning, how many have been discussed on TV?

Anyway - When Peanut was really small, keeping the TV off was easy. We just did lots of other stuff and had a grand old time. As she got bigger, she saw some TV but not much. The viewing went up exponentially when I was pregnant (and tired and crabby) with Pumpkin, and then again when he was tiny and I was spending so much time tending to him. Now that we are in a routine, we keep the TV viewing to a minimum - it stays off until at least 4pm, and then she watches while I get dinner ready. When she was sick a few weeks ago, the TV was on all the time and she got addicted FAST. It was honestly like crack and the best ad for shutting the damn thing off that I could see. She had tantrums about watching and would just go into the family room and sit on the couch expecting me to turn it on. She had been able to play while viewing, but that has gone by the wayside too - she is now an instant zombie when I press the power button. After reading a little blurb in Mothering about an increase in aggression with TV viewing, we decided to shut it off.

Well, we were on week two of our no TV experiment. I say "were" because it was on this afternoon. I am sick with a crazy sinus/head cold, and Peanut whined "mommy mommy mommy mommy" for her entire nap time. Clearly, I am unable to parent effectively right now, and I called upon the magic box babysitter. She wanted to watch some dinosaur show she has seen before that seems a bit mature for her. We watched together and she told me several times that the dinosaurs did not scare her. She also told me that there are no dinosaurs in our yard. Nope. She also got upset when I changed the channel during the show. I explained that it was a commercial - we've had this conversation before - and I'd flip it back when the show was back on. I think this just goes to show that kids this little don't separate the marketing from the entertainment (who are we kidding, neither do the TV ad folks!) and they are dealing with comprehending reality and fiction. The commercial part of TV may be what bothers me the most. Someone is knowingly trying to prey on my 2 1/2 year old to get her to tell me she wants some doll or truck or whatever. And the toys they are trying to sell! Dolls that look like hookers, toys meant for ultimate destruction. It's just really shameful.

The first few days without the magic box were hard - lots of crying about watching something or another. For the most part, the TV is off until the kids are in bed, and often it never goes on at all. The past few days there has rarely been a request to watch. Of course, I want to keep it off because Pumpkin doesn't need to have that much television in his life - he's only 9 months old - and he is wherever his big sister is, so that means he is watching whatever she has on. So what's the big deal? Well, I know I get more done, have more fun, enjoy my family more, and have better playtime with my kids when the TV is off. Yeah, we use our DVR and watch a few shows - we are not total purists - Honey would never approve, and now I'd probably miss a show or two for w while. Here is a great resource about turn off the TV week - it has statistics and facts, and ideas about other things to do while you stash your tube. Looks like the next Turn Off Your TV week is coming up April 19th...Get ready!

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