Goodbye, Hello, Electronics

At the end of June, as summer vacation dawned and endless days of childhood romping loomed, we made what I will self-congratulatorily call the brave decision to unplug the television and hide away all video games for two full weeks.

IMG_1276Our three sons were initially shocked and more than a little dismayed, but they soon got into the spirit of it–reaching for books and puzzles and board games to such an extent that their childhoods were beginning to look more like their parents’ and less like the plugged-in experiences of their generation.

My eight-year-old son read, among other titles, an adapted version of Moby Dick, and together with his seven- and four-year-old brothers mastered the nuances of Twister and Perfection.  And all of them have been outside–a lot.  Their imaginations have always been, shall we say, fertile; but removing the electronics brought their collective storytelling abilities to a whole new level.

On the day television was reintroduced, we had a chat.  What always concerned us as parents was the utter passivity that comes with television–not the viewing of it per se but rather how they decide–or don’t decide–what to watch.  They were accustomed to simply turning on the television at approved times during the day and viewing whatever was on.  It didn’t matter if they liked the show or not; they simply watched whatever the network chose for them.  It was disheartening and more than a little concerning.IMG_1279

I was raised in front of the television and probably garnered my social conscience from Michael Stivic on All in the Family, my belief in happily-ever-afters from The Love Boat, and my sass from Flo on Alice.  Name any show produced from the mid-1970s to the mid-1980s, and I’ve seen it.  And though I don’t really watch television anymore, it’s due less to any lingering animosity and more to my propensity to fall asleep once I sit down to watch.

IMG_1280And while I know there is plenty on television today that is not worth even my cat’s time, there is much that is good.  Couple that with the fact that our children have to engage with their peers and should possess at least a modicum of knowledge of SpongeBob to carry on a decent playground conversation, and we decided to allow them to watch.

But only thirty minutes a day.

And they have to be selective.

We go online and check the day’s schedule for their favorite stations, and they each choose one show.  No longer passive receptacles but critical thinkers and active participants in their viewing, we hope we are sowing the seeds of lifelong savvy media consumers.

Yesterday my eight-year-old announced that there might be some days when he chooses to watch no television if there is nothing on he wants to see and asked if that would “okay.”

It sounds as though he’s on his way.


7 thoughts on “Goodbye, Hello, Electronics

  1. If it’s 30 minutes a day, I vote for the adult selecting 2-3 options and letting the boys vote.
    If they choose to pass on the TV during the week, they may watch a DVD movie Saturday or Sunday at an hour you wish to bathe, or manicure, or SHHHHH, go out for a drive, sit at Battery Park…next week is Don’t turn.
    I am also “wild” about the kinds of ads on at news time when kids just might start get global and have conversation topics. Really, why explain Cialis or low T, or twist to Tena Twist?
    Listening to NPR or classical music gets extra credit in my log.

  2. Thank you Sam. So nice to read. We have made a decision to have no Wii, Nintendo, X box or DS’s. There is no ethereal decision here but a practical one as Mackenzie’s personality tends to be a little obsessive. We have daily struggles over access to the IPad . Seeing as a lot of the time I am single parenting, it is easier to manage my battles. This decision has been met with incredulity by some parents and us treated a new age hippies, has seen our son bullied in the playground as he did not know what was the latest alien on a game and could not join the conversation. We even nearly wavered a few months ago so he could ‘fit in’ but we have kept going. Kids have come over and said that there is nothing to do (technology wise) and have ended up simply playing and asking to come again. The decision is always opened to be reviewed as he gets older each year but we simply keep asking, ‘isn’t there more to life than computer games?’ .

  3. We have tried and failed. We tried again and semi-succeeded. As there are no two like snowflakes, the same goes for our children and how they best absorb information about their world. Certain battles need not be fought. How would you spend a vacation? If it helps one unwind and harms nobody…plug in. We live in a different world and sometimes an escape can help us better cope with today’s reality. On the other hand if one prefers more active play even better. Just as with our diet , moderation is key.

  4. Not just brave, but heroic! So much more to life than media. That being said, many bonds have been made (oddly) regarding Sponge Bob trivia. Yes, everything in moderation.

  5. What a different world we live in now!! As a grandmother of 3 grandsons, I see the world of TV, computers, DS’s, etc. and the time they could spend on them. There is no such thing as ADD when it comes to electronics , they could sit all day if parents let them. Kim said it best, as with everything in life, moderation is the key.

  6. We turned off the cable last July and went to DVD’s and Netflix. It took Colm until October to notice! He was so busy with being outside and running around it wasn’t missed. O, on the other hand, needs a bit more guidance. Thanks for your take on it!

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