Even if you kill your TV, you’ll still have Hulu, iTunes, your DVDs, and your smart phone. Today we’re never separate from streaming entertainment. So the old slogan of killing the TV just isn’t going to cut it. “Turn off TV, turn on life.” Better…

Around here, we’re not big TV people so this TV Turnoff week (a week to go without “screen time”) isn’t as hard as it could be. F did, however, ask if he could watch a Thomas the Train DVD tonight as we drove home. And I must say, it took decent energy to deny him. It would have been great (for me) to let him plug in before bedtime after a series of haircuts and swim lessons late this afternoon. I was zonked. Instead, we walked around the block (3 times). I was mid-way through this post and felt obligated to comply.

Not surprisingly, of course, remaining unplugged was the right decision. We met a new neighbor and spent an additional 45 minutes outside playing and navigating the sidewalks. Everyone was happy about it. But…

I love Madmen and Weeds, I’ve dabbled in the show Parenthood, and hate to admit there is one show on CW11 I like, too. If I had time, I’d also watch a morning show like the Today show. I like that kind of rapid fire morning news show but it doesn’t fit into my life. Beyond those shows, watching TV usually depresses me. And it takes up too much time. Part of how I get to raise my boys and have a couple of jobs at the same time, is that I avoid TV. I mean that seriously. I’m sure I waste precious time in other places in my life, but our boys are growing up without much TV around and because of it, I see them more. We have one TV in our house, in the basement, but none where we eat, live, and play. It’s a good balance for us. For others, it wouldn’t be.

Not everyone agrees with me about TV as a depressant. Some of my friends loooooove TV. And that sounds good to me; it’s really okay to like TV from my standpoint. I don’t think you have to feel guilty about it, either (I hear people say this). You just have to figure out how to use it well. And how to incorporate media into your life so it doesn’t detract from living. Or from your child’s living…

Forty percent of 3 month-olds are watching TV and over 20% of 2 year-olds have a television in their bedrooms. Egads!  Turnoff week, a twice yearly event that urges families to spend the week essentially unplugged from the TV, seems a good antidote.

We know TV isn’t good for children; we know it isn’t “helpful.” The AAP has a rule of 2’s: no TV until age 2 and then limit children to no more than 2 hours of screen time daily. Computers, video games, DVDs, and televisions all fall under the “screen” umbrella. There is reason behind the recommendation; research out this decade finds that TV may increase attention problems, hinder language development, while overtly contributing to the obesity epidemic by rendering kids sedentary and inactive. We know that children who watch more than 4-5 hrs/day of television are more likely to be obese. So pediatricians generally advise against TV use. Despite the stance, the average American child spends more time watching TV each year than they do in school.

But TV and video are clearly a part of our culture. So taking steps to reduce how you consume it makes the most sense to me.

In the office I often say this:

  • Wait until age 2 to show your child TV programming. I don’t mean you can’t watch a show while breast-feeding. I mean plunking your baby down in front of the TV. There is absolutely no benefit to an infant sitting in front of a TV and using it as a sitter. Turn on music instead or let your baby enjoy the quiet.
  • Ambient TV (TV always on in the background) is distracting and leads families to talk to each other less. Turn off TV when you’re not watching a program. Get rid of the noise.
  • Whenever possible, don’t eat in front of the TV. If you do (during meals or while snacking) you really don’t listen to your body and end up eating far more than you would normally. Distracted eating (while watching TV) contributes to overweight.
  • If you want to watch TV or movies with children, take time to drop your phone, drop the newspaper, and engage in listening and watching a show together. Nothing is wrong with relaxing with your child while enjoying a show together.
  • If your child has difficulty going to sleep, no TV 2 hours before bed. TV usually revs kids up rather than calming them down.
  • Kill the TV in the bedroom. Any bedroom. It’s never going to be good for anyone…

The AAP recommends these distractions/re-directions this week to assist in turning off the TV:

1. Have a plan for each day in order to help keep children occupied.
2. Encourage outdoor play.
3. Schedule a family game night.
4. Involve children in dinner. Allow them to create a menu and help with the cooking.
5. Go on a family outing. Fall is a great time to go apple picking or to a pumpkin patch.
6. Plan a trip to the library. Or bookstore is your library is closed!

Good luck. May luck and fortune be with us all as we attempt to turn off and tune back into life. Tell me how it goes for you…