TV Turn-Off Week- Why Not Just Toss It?

1950's television. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Turning off the television is always a fabulous idea. I don’t have one to turn off, but if I did, I’d certainly be happy to celebrate TV Turnoff Week. I can’t imagine why anyone would want to sit and stare when they could be living!

Sponsored by the Center for Screen-Time Awareness, TV Turn-Off week has been celebrated during the fourth week in April since 1995. According to the Center’s website,

“Television cuts into family time,

harms our children’s ability to read and succeed in school,

and contributes to unhealthy lifestyles and obesity.”

Well, duh…

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald DahlIt reminds me of the television poem in Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Have you read it? I can’t reproduce the entire poem here, but you can read it all at the Rice University website.

I totally concur with Dahl’s first stanza:

“The most important thing we’ve learned,
So far as children are concerned,
Is never, NEVER, NEVER let
Them near your television set —
Or better still, just don’t install
The idiotic thing at all.
In almost every house we’ve been,
We’ve watched them gaping at the screen.
They loll and slop and lounge about,
And stare until their eyes pop out….”

Dahl goes on to point out exactly what happens to these lolling and slopping TV watchers:

“But did you ever stop to think,
To wonder just exactly what
This does to your beloved tot?

Not a pretty picture, eh? You notice Dahl was using all caps to ‘scream’ long before it became an internet convention! But he obviously felt deeply about the issue, and so do I.

Dahl doesn’t leave us with nothing to do, though. In the final stanzas of the poem, he implores:

“So please, oh please, we beg, we pray,
Go throw your TV set away,
And in its place you can install
A lovely bookshelf on the wall.
Then fill the shelves with lots of books,
Ignoring all the dirty looks,
The screams and yells, the bites and kicks,
And children hitting you with sticks-
Fear not, because we promise you
That, in about a week or two
Of having nothing else to do,
They’ll now begin to feel the need
Of having something to read.
And once they start — oh boy, oh boy!
You watch the slowly growing joy
That fills their hearts. They’ll grow so keen
They’ll wonder what they’d ever seen
In that ridiculous machine,
That nauseating, foul, unclean,
Repulsive television screen!
And later, each and every kid
Will love you more for what you did.”

And to that I would add, “Go out and play!” Children should have free time to build forts, play in the dirt, swing on the swingset, play hide and seek, run Tonka trucks over each other’s sand forts (and learn to resolve squabbles;-)), play dolls or teddy bears, draw, paint, practice cooking (“yes dear, that’s a very interesting cake”), smoosh clay, climb trees, play the piano, harmonica, guitar, or accordian, throw snowballs (and possibly dirt clods), splash in creeks, build with Legos or Fischertechnic, catch crawdads, re-enact famous battles or scenes from favorite books, learn to knit, crochet, and embroider, and just run, jump, and play.

Life is too short to sit and stare

As they grow older, they need time to learn hand skills as well as head skills. If they are sitting and staring, being mindlessly entertained, how can they can travel, plant gardens, lay brick paths, learn to use tools, practice cooking (edibly), hone sports skills, hike, bike, climb, trim trees, start a small business, write letters to the editor, lend a helping hand by volunteering, write a book, or have any real fun? And when will they ever have time to play hide and seek in the back yard with the whole family? That’s fun!

There’s so much in life to see and do, and it’s all so much more rewarding than lolling and slopping! If you have a television, I encourage you to seriously consider tossing it. You really won’t miss it!

Endangered Minds: Why Children Dont Think And What We Can Do About by Dr. Jane Healy
And finally, brain scientist Jane Healy’s classic, Endangered Minds, offers many more compelling reasons to toss the television. If you have children and you haven’t read it, please do so, along with her other book, Failure to Connect. It’s scholarly, but very accessible, and the evidence she provides that television actually changes children’s brains is truly unsettling. Healy’s scientific evidence supports what common sense has told us all along– heavy television watchers are less literate and have more learning difficulties than children who grow up with books. No surprise there! There’s a lot more, though, so it’s a book I highly recommend. FAILURE TO CONNECT: How Computers Affect Our Children's Minds -- and What We Can Do About It by Dr. Jane Healy

This week, I hope you enjoy many tv-free hours. Life is waiting!

Carpe diem!


5 Responses

  1. Stacey Thomas says:

    Great post!
    And, where was the top picture taken? How did you ever get D to dress like that and stuff a dog in his pocket ?!?! The bottom pic looks much more to his liking…
    I need your email!

  2. Joanne says:

    Oh, how I agree! When I was about six years old, way back in 1957, our television set broke. My mother refused to have it fixed. My two older brothers and I pitched a fit–cried, begged, pleaded–to no avail. If my mother was here now I would thank her again and again. With the television gone, I spent hours upon hours reading, painting, drawing, playing outside making dolls out of pine bows and marigolds. We built forts, played in the rain, produced plays, made up songs, day dreamed, picked up pecans and sold them to the neighbors, took walks at night after the supper dishes were washed, dried, and put away, made up stories–I could go on and on. When others talk of television shows that they watched growing up, I have real memories of growing up! Because of my mother’s foresight, my husband and I were able to do away with and then severally limit the television watching of our family of six. Now they have real memories as well, which I love to hear when they all get together. Life was meant to be lived, not watched!

    I have one more comment that is related. I have noticed that the videos that we have taken of our children as they were growing up is a “problem” as well. The first time I noticed this was when we took video of one of the births (from the “North” end, mind you!). After watching the birth video a couple of times, I noticed that my real memory of the event was being replaced by the video. I don’t like that. It’s nice to see the children at different stages and hear their little voices again, but I’m not sure that I wouldn’t rather have a tape recording and a photo. I’d rather not erase those precious memories!

  3. Janice,

    As always, thought provoking.

    My journey toward a deeper walk with God began back in November when I gave up TV. My children will (hopefully) never get hooked…at least not in this house, LOL.

    By the way, I just wanted you to know that I nominated you for the Thinking Blogger Award. Come to my website and check it out!

  4. Pam says:

    Our family “gave up” television when we moved to Europe in 1996. We moved back from Europe in 2003 and “neglected” to “plug-in” to the television culture that exists here in America. I must admit I thought we were the only ones in America that didn’t watch tv, play video games, etc. until I discovered other homeschooling families. I give thanks every day for the wonderful network of homeschooling families that exists here in Virginia. It is good to know that there are many of us out here that are actively working to ensure that our children engage in active learning as a family. Thank-you for sharing the poem! 🙂

  5. I am going to get that book! Thanks for the recommendation.

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