Saturday, December 20, 2008

The No TV Experiment Continues!

A couple weeks ago we hit the 18-month mark with no TV. (Read the background here.) Sara and I continue to relish in the dropped jaws and half-hearted accolades of “That’s great!” when the conversation arrives at our admission of a TV-free life. Most of the time, we imagine people are really thinking, “You crazy freaks.”

Now that the kids are getting older (almost 6 and 4 with a third on the way), the conversation sometimes drifts towards debating the potential social dysfunction and alienation they might be experiencing now or could experience in the future as they interact more and more with peers at school. Let’s set the record straight: We are not militant in trying to shield the kids from watching TV; they see it when we visit friends and family; we continue to borrow movies from Essex Library and will watch some programming via online streams. Our objection has always been about the overload of crappy content and incessant marketing of products.

Unfortunately, you don’t need a TV to be exposed to a lot of media or consumer-specific stimuli these days. We continue to be amazed at some of the things the kids talk about from time to time: cartoon characters, TV shows, toys, food products, etc. Clearly they pick it up through the normal day-to-day interactions with friends, strolls through stores, riding around town, and slick product placements in the few pieces of media they do watch. In a cluttered consumer world, marketers continue to find ways to hit the mark with their messages.

These minor bumps in the road pale in comparison to all the FUN and AWESOME THINGS that continue to come about as a family with no TV. Here’s a short list:

• Playing outside (soccer, pirates, princesses, baseball, building forts, and whatever else their imagination guides them to)
• Lots and lots of reading (and learning to read in the process)
• Cooking and baking with mom
• Building cities and racetracks and castles with blocks, legos, and what ever else is around
• Jamming with the myriad of instruments we have around the house
• Learning to sing and dance
• Lots of beach days swimming, exploring for periwinkles and minnows, and shell hunting
• Visits to zoos, museums, and aquariums (with discount passes courtesy of Essex)
• Camping and hiking
• Learning where our food comes from via our garden
• Planting a sun flower “house”
• Learning to play checkers and chess and all kinds of board games (the ones you remember as a kid)
• Playing cards (Go Fish, of course)
• All kinds of drawing and painting
• Picking flowers from the garden
• Learning the names of the birds who visit our feeders and the trees they perch in
• Playing lots of dress up and “acting”
• Learning a bit of Spanish and French
• Going strawberry, blueberry, and apple picking
• Helping with “housework” (and teaching the value of saving via an allowance)
• Doing cool science experiments for kids (it’s amazing how much fun you can have with vinegar and baking soda!)
• Practicing our numbers and letters; learning to write
• Learning to ride bikes
• Eating dinner together
• Watching the stars and moon and imagining we are astronauts
• Making homemade gifts for Christmas

The list could go on…

The bottom line: We are having lots of fun doing all kinds of things that don’t involve a TV. Sure it’s a bit more work at times but it’s not boring in the least. In fact it’s amazing how much you can connect fun and learning all at the same time. The verdict is still out on if we’ll get a TV at some point. We don’t worry about it too much; if it happens, it happens.

For me, I guess I equate no TV with some kind of simpler living; a getting-back-to-basics kind of thing. Seeking to not give in to the easy out that TV provides and an opening up of so much opportunity to connect, share, explore, and learn.

Can you imagine what might happen if a few more of us ditched the magic box and freed up time for those more important things in life?


MSilvia said...

I applaud your decision. My wife and I have been "experimenting" the same with our family for about a year now, and other than missing Saturday college football games (my personal crutch), we've found that we don't miss it much- at least now we aren't wasting time flipping through one hundred channels only to exclaim that there is "nothing on."

A quick comment on the "socialization" issue- I wouldn't worry about it, either. My wife and I have come to the conclusion that the people who will make positive changes out of our children's generation will be the one's that don't follow the herd anyway- wasn't it Einstein who said that we won't be able to solve our problems using the same logic and experiences that got us into our messes in the first place? (not even close to his direct quote, I know,I've taken liberties- but the idea is still sound).

Nice post Bill, nice sentiment, and Merry Christmas.



Thanks, M. I couldn't agree more!

The kids are doing just fine -- and developing an amazing capacity for creative thought. We have no worries whatsoever.

Email me so we can catch up offline!

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you and the family. Tell everyone I said hello.

Natescape said...

We totally applaud your decision, Bill! I was slightly appalled yesterday after we opened presents and my daughter proceeded to sit on the couch and watch TiVo'ed Hannah Montana. Our kids are really good at imaginative play, but they do sometimes like to take the "easy way out" and just sit in front of the tube and rot their brains. We've finally started to impose more and more "Technology-Free Time"s on their lives, something we've always done.

By not having a TV, you don't give them the option to do the "veg out" thing, which is great.


Natescape, believe me it takes work to make not vegging out easy. Take it one step at a time and things will come around.

Winter is especially tough, though we landed a few new board games from the big guy in the red suit. So far, so good. As a thirty-something, I feel like play time is coming full circle as our kids are playing games that we played when we were their age!