TV Turn-Off Week- Why Not Just Toss It?
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.”
It 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?
IT ROTS THE SENSE IN THE HEAD!
IT KILLS IMAGINATION DEAD!
IT CLOGS AND CLUTTERS UP THE MIND!
IT MAKES A CHILD SO DULL AND BLIND
HE CAN NO LONGER UNDERSTAND
A FANTASY, A FAIRYLAND!
HIS BRAIN BECOMES AS SOFT AS CHEESE!
HIS POWERS OF THINKING RUST AND FREEZE!
HE CANNOT THINK — HE ONLY SEES!”
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!
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.
This week, I hope you enjoy many tv-free hours. Life is waiting!