Turn Off the TV? No Friggin’ Way

Warning: this is a rant about no-TV week. If you don’t want to hear me rant, scroll down to my conclusion, which pretty much sums it up.

Ren at Learning in Freedom suggest instead of turning off TV for a week, turning off school.

Now, I don’t consider myself even the least bit of a radical unschooler. But, what is all the big hubbub with TV?

Why is TV considered so “bad”? How it any “badder” than anything else? Done in excess, the vast majority of all the stuff we do in our lives could be “bad”. Maybe, instead of turning off our TV, we could take this week to look at ourselves and ask, “Why do I watch so much TV that I feel like I should be turning it off?” and “Why do I have to go cold turkey on TV to realize that I’m watching an unhealthy amount of it?”

Granted, I know that everyone has their own way that they like to make life change. Sometimes, we have to do drastic things to make real change. I’ve gone through this.

But how is one week, determined by someone else, going to change anything about us? How many people turn off their TVs this week and then when the week is over, go right back into the same habits they had before? I know I would. Why would I change?

Change doesn’t come from a no-TV week. It comes from inside. If we think there’s something wrong with TV that it’s worth turning off for a week – why aren’t we asking ourselves right now, and every day, why we watch so much TV?

As a culture, are we so used to being told what to think, and who we are, by other people (usually people in some kind of authority) that we need a national no-TV week day to see that we need a change?

“But, Tammy,” you may say, “this week kick-starts me in something I’ve wanted to do for a long time. This is just the kick in the pants I needed to get going on watching less TV and doing other things.”

My prediction – 99% of people who needed a kick in the pants by someone else to turn off their TV will return to the same patterns they always have had within a month. That kick in the pants means absolutely nothing in the long term if we don’t really want to let go. We have to have our own reasons to let go. And when we do, we won’t need a no-TV week.

Diets are the same way. Diets never work. We all know this. Yet, so many of us do it. “It’s a good kick start.” I used to be a fitness instructor. I’ve heard all the rationalizations about diets. The more restrictive, the more enthusiastic the person is that this is finally going to change things.

I think, I met… oh, ONE person who actually made a life change because of a diet. And that was because when she went on a diet, her blood pressure skyrocketed and she had bowel problems. Diets don’t work to change our lives. And those are efforts coming from within us – we have to make the conscious decision to go on a diet – there’s no such thing as ‘go on a diet week’. And yet, we still fail.

Diets and no-TV and Lent and New Year’s resolutions and “Beginning of the school year” resolutions – they don’t work. They work for the short term (and that’s why we do them, because it satisfies our desire to get what we want immediately), but it doesn’t create long term changes.

To make long term and life changes, we have to have a really good reason. I mean a really good one. One that is so good, we are willing to go the rest of our lives with this change.

How many people are willing to go the rest of their lives without TV? If we are going to make change, it needs to be something we are willing to do for the long term – or it doesn’t help us.

Giving up TV for a week – if it’s fun, sure why not. If we do it because we want to focus other places for a while, I can see that. But to do it because, TV “cuts into family time, harms our children’s ability to read and succeed in life, and contributes to unhealthy lifestyles and obesity.” as Ren quotes from the no-TV week promotion… if this is a real reason to turn off the TV, TV is not the problem. There’s a reason TV is taking over people’s lives, and it’s not because the TV is on. 

We love our TV shows in the Takahashi household. But we don’t have a coronary if we miss them. We have figured out what our healthy relationship is with TV and we won’t turn it off because our society says its bad for us. TV isn’t bad for our family. Because, as soon as it gets bad, for whatever reason, we adjust, change, create a new life rhythm where TV doesn’t do all the negative things that people worry TV does.

How about, instead of a no-TV week, we have a “love your family week” or “Take a close look at how our family works and what’s healthy for us week”? Ok, so that wouldn’t be all that popular, or easy to advertise. And perhaps, for some, no-TV week turns into that. But realize, TV is NOT the enemy. We are our own enemies if TV is taking over our lives. If anything is taking over our lives.

So, I am protesting turn off the TV week by not turning off my TV. Why should I? It’s not sucking the life from me. Or from my kids. If something was sucking the life from my family, I wouldn’t need a no-TV week to deal with it. I’d deal with it right here and now. I don’t need permission to repair and sustain relationships with my family. And if other people do, is it society’s job to be an enabler?


11 Responses to “Turn Off the TV? No Friggin’ Way”

  1. Carol Says:

    Knives are potentially harmful too! Maybe we should have a no knife week!!! But then most parents take proper precautions to make sure that knives are used appropriately. They supervise when necessary, put them out of reach of those who shouldn’t have them and generally make sure that the knives aren’t harming anyone. Why is TV any different?

  2. HippieMommy Says:

    Great post 🙂 I was thinking about the same thing this week. All of my big changes in life came because I decided I had to do them, not because I was motivated by a sponsored event. I was giggling to myself this week as I thought about all of my friends who were giving up tv when we are clearly more hooked on the internet. Giving up tv is easy! 😛

  3. samhuh Says:

    While reading Ren’s post I was not only on the computer but also sort of watching tv over my shoulder. At the same time my oldest son was playing his gameboy and watching tv over the top of it.

  4. momlovesbeingathome Says:

    Good point! TV is not really an issue in our house. We just don’t watch much of it. Our kids will go days without ever even asking to turn the TV on and they’ve pretty much always been that way. Like you said, if your TV watching is out of control enough that you feel like you have to turn it off for a week you need to evaluate what’s going on in your life or your family and fix it long term.

  5. anna Says:

    Thinking about it, comparing this to something like Lent….. in it’s own way Turn Off Your TV week may be more like an excercise in contemplation, rather than a try at going Cold Turkey for some people. There is value in not being attached to the outcome of a week like this, but rather simply expericencing it for what it is- and perhaps seeing what that feels like for a family.
    I can do a whole day of fasting, but this is just a task of contemplation, not a doorway to a whole lifetime of not eating. : )
    All that being said, we watched no tv all week and it wasn’t much different from any other week around here! So take my words with a grain of salt!
    (We do have a tv, we just don’t watch much.)

  6. Tammy Says:

    You’re right Anna. Lent wasn’t a great example, because for most people, giving up something for Lent is symbolic for something else entirely. I have known people to use it to give something up that they’ve been trying to give up for a long time, but most Lent-ers do it for symbolic reasons.

    No-TV week symbolic though? Symbolic of what? But, giving up TV just cuz you need/want a break, I can dig on that.

  7. Cathy Says:

    When I first heard about TV turn off week, I was considering it, but then I thought why in the world would I want DS to miss NOVA,Nature and other great PBS programs? The TV can be a wonderful learning tool,which is exactly how DS uses it.

  8. Learning Says:

    I get more worked up over mandatory vaccinations than no tv week. I understand its a group think idea just like manadatory preschool ( I also see that as more bothersome than no tv week). Calls for no tv for a week don’t bother me as much. I see it as a potential to experience life without tv for a week. I love tv and then I don’t. We don’t use it very often these days, and we are missing some really good shows, but we aren’t suffering because of it (as in missing out on something vital or as withdrawal symptoms). We are more attached to our computers. I had vacation imposed no computer week and it was good for me ( I needed to become unattached from my computer)… I made that decision, well the rental did, and there was no societal push to do no computer for a week. I guess I don’t feel the societal push to turn off the tv for a week even though it may exist… then possibly it would bother me since I tend to react to societal pushes. I guess I could care less about no tv week! Its a blip on the screen of my life and thank goodness for that, cause I could use as many blips as humanly possible.:-D

  9. tobeme Says:

    What you are saying is correct. These type of things are short term at best. As you stated, TV is not the problem, the problem is always some other dynamic in the home.
    The only good I can see from this self imposed prohibition of TV for a week is that a family may realize that there is a part of family dynamic which needs work and the absence of TV may highlight this.
    Good thoughts, I enjoyed your article.

  10. Kerri Roberts Says:

    Thanks for your post. I don’t know if you’re familiar with Maya & Miguel, a show on PBS in the afternoons — http://pbskidsgo.org/mayaandmiguel — that emphasizes cultural diversity and language learning but I’m reaching out to talk to parents about the program as part of a marketing project I’m working on with Scholastic.

    I found your post and thought I’d reach out to say hello and ask if you’d like to receive a free Maya & Miguel DVD. If you’d like to receive the DVD just email me at Kerri at boldmouth.com with your address and I’ll have it shipped it out to you.

    If you do choose to blog about Maya & Miguel show or episodes on the DVD, please make it clear how you received the information. Our goal is to be open and honest with everyone we reach.

    Kerri Roberts, BoldMouth

  11. Mom of All Seasons Says:

    I had to laugh, because we’ve always taken a week to two weeks off each year – even before we had kids and knew that there was something called TV Free Week. Sometimes we do it two or three times a year. It all depends on where we’re at in life. The great thing though is that it’s always a family decision, not a handed-down-on-high announcement. Individually, we’ll start noticing that we feel antsy, mentally dull or caught in a rut, and getting less enjoyment out of what we’re watching or playing. Generally, this happens just before the weather starts to significantly change. That leads to one of us saying something along the line of, “Who wants to shake things up a bit?” If we’re all on board, we just turn everything off and do other things: activities that have gotten put on hold, games that have been shoved to the back of the shelf or checking out a library in a different part of town. This spring we happened to correspond with the national “event”, but since we don’t see it as an “event” I guess I just never thought it was that big a deal for other families to either do or not do such a thing. It’s just what works for us.

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