Bethany Sanders: Forget "Turn Off the TV Week": This summer, we're going completely (well, almost) TV-free.
I knew something had to change when my preschooler started laughing exactly like SpongeBob. "HAHAHAHA!" she'd laugh, and every now and then pop up with a, "What the ...?"
A long, dreary, cold winter in the North turned us into couch potatoes, and we got way more screen time than anyone should. Don't judge me -- it's cold here, and I don't do winter sports (minus sledding). But since the weather broke, the kids haven't watched TV at all. After school, they head outside to play in our big backyard or pull their bikes out of the garage and ride around the block.
That gave me an idea, and I brought it up one night at dinner.
"I think that we should declare summer 'TV-free,'" I said. Three pairs of eyes looked at me, and only one pair (my husband's) had panic in them. And so we set some ground rules:
1) No TV during the day, unless it's been raining for more than 48 hours straight.
2) The occasional Friday family-movie nights are exempt from the rule.
3) After the kids go to bed, all bets are off (that one's for Dad).
Why go so extreme? Mom blogger Sierra Black, on Babble's Strollerderby, put it best in her piece, "Turn the TV Off, Tune In with Your Kids":
"Because when my kids are watching a lot of TV, I see them not using their bodies or their minds. They're limp on the couch, and their eyes kind of glaze over. They fight more with each other, and with me. Even when TV time is over, they remain irritable. Their attention spans seem shorter. They start asking me to buy things and have less patience for baking cookies together or doing a sewing project at home. In other words, my kids act the way mountains of research tells us kids act when they watch TV: They become more aggressive, less creative and intellectually curious and more prone to consumerism."
Back to my family: Turning off the TV for an entire summer will hopefully average out our media glut from winter, but my secret hope is that the new habits we create will extend long past the first snowfall.
According to the Nielsen Company, in a 65-year life, the average person will spend nine years vegging out in front of their TV. NINE years. I want more than that for my kids. Heck, I want more than that for me. If "Baby Einstein" isn't going to make my kids smarter and more successful, then SpongeBob is probably doing more harm than good.
While we're busy not watching TV this summer, we'll play outside in our backyard and make s'mores in our new firepit. We'll dig in the garden and go to the zoo and swim in Grandma's pool. When it rains, we'll get out our crafts that have been gathering dust and bake three kinds of cookies. And when everyone -- including me; maybe especially me -- gets hot and tired and out of sorts, we'll curl up near the air conditioner and read some books.
Could you quit your TV habit cold turkey?