Wednesday, July 6, 2011

The Boob Tube

Next week will be TV Turn-off Week in our house.  

Yes, I know that the actual Screen-free Week was some time back in April, but it just wasn't a good time for us.  I realize that sounds like a cop out; like we waited to turn off the TV in the summertime when a lot of the first-run network shows aren't even on.  But the reality is that it's needed much more now than it was in April.

Since...oh...forever, I've maintained pretty consistent TV rules with Dylan.  TV is allowed in the morning once he's dressed and ready for school.  But no TV in the evening on a school night.  Yes, no TV.  I find we are in a definite minority on that one.  Most parents tell me that want to cut back on their kids' evening viewing.  For us, however, I find TV is nothing but a negative distraction during the school year.

You'll see that school figures heavily in the rules above.  The supposed reality is that the rules are year-round.  But the real reality is that we do cave in a lot more easily in the summertime.  It's a lot harder to insist on no TV when there's no homework, I'm trying to get something done like cooking dinner, and Dylan is at loose ends but hot and tired from summer day camp.  I'd say TV ends up on in the evenings before bedtime at least once or twice during the week, not counting Fridays, when it is allowed.

That said, TV has become a major issue.  I get the request to watch TV nearly every day.  I say that as though it's a polite inquiry followed by obedient acceptance of my decision.  In actuality, it involves lots of whining, complaining, and the occasional foot stomp.  I've been told I've ruined his day, even his life.  There's really more drama in our living room than there is on TV.

It's funny, really, that TV has gotten such a bad name around our house.  When I was Dylan's age, I think I already had a TV in my bedroom (a 12-inch black and white set).  I watched as much TV as I wanted.  I knew what time it was by what was on TV, and I considered the characters on my favorite TV shows (shows like Hogan's Heroes, Happy Days, Starsky and Hutch, and Barnaby Jones) almost like friends.  It was not uncommon for me to have TV put me to sleep.

It almost makes me feel as mean as Dylan thinks I am.

My reversal is fueled by several things.  For one, I know more than my mom did then.  Heck, we all know more than my mom did then, including my mom.  Study after study screams the ill effects of TV watching to us.  I guess it's ironic that the more we hear about how bad TV is, the more channels they offer us.  

I want to say that TV is a lot worse now than it was then, but really, it's not like I learned much about World War II from watching Hogan's Heroes.  Starsky and Hutch was more about the red Grand Torino with the snazzy lighting stripe careening around corners than anything else. It's not like I was watching Masterpiece Theater or Nova.  

That said, there weren't a lot of shows really targeted at kids and only kids.  Sure, Little House on the Prairie (another favorite) was family TV, but Hannah Montana was never meant for kids and adults to both enjoy.  

I've also seen a dramatic shift in kids' television just in the nine years Dylan has been alive.  The majority of his TV viewing has been on Disney Channel, and I've seen them go from having pre-teen "sit-coms" in the evening to having them all day.  And the shows have gone from the The Suite Life of Zack and Cody with the kids living with mom to The Suite Life on Deck with mom living somewhere else while the kids float around the world and cause trouble on a cruise ship.  At least Billy Ray Cyrus was a pretty common factor and relatively stable voice in Hannah Montana.  Disney's newer Shake It Up rarely features adults (the host of the dance show definitely doesn't count).  When they do have an adult character make a token appearance, the kids are completely disrespectful, with the adults just foils for the laughter.  Only, I'm not laughing.  

Even on a cartoon, Disney's Fish Hooks, there are no parents in the fish tank world of the pet store.  It's a sad state of affairs when Disney is competing for Nickelodeon's audience by mimicking all of their shows.  Sponge Bob meet Fish Hooks.  iCarly meet Shake It Up.  

Of course, the biggest argument against TV is all the things it replaces.  When I was Dylan's age, I was already engrossed in books.  While I kept track of my TV shows, I also spent a lot of time reading, doing crafts, and playing in the woods in back of my house. 

So we are going to spend the week - all of us - not watching TV.  Since I really don't get to watch much as it is (what with meetings, running after Dylan, and RockStar manning the remote), I don't expect it will be too difficult for me. And since it is summer, RockStar will probably survive.  

I know it will be difficult for Dylan at first.  But I'm hoping it ends up being one of his favorite weeks of the summer.

Tune in next week to learn more...

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