The No Screen Challenge

When I was younger I loved TV. I would stare at it, day in and out, pin-eyed, slack-jawed, the pale blue light flickering on my blank face. Eventually, Dad became fed up.. One day i came home and the TV was just gone. Without warning, the “TV room” became “the spare room.”

My father locked the family TV set in his room. Literally: He put it in a padlocked storage room down there—and in the first throes of my withdrawal; I actually tried to pick that lock.

With so much anger I confronted my father. How could he do this terrible thing with no discussion or negotiation? How was I supposed to kill time now? When kids talked about TV shows at schools how would I know what they were talking about? He said he didn’t know and didn’t care and that was the end of the discussion. So unfair!

Looking back now, locking away the TV set had to be one of the single most impactful “parenting decision” my father ever made. Because while bored and stumped for ideas on how to murder the hours between school and dinner, then dinner and bedtime, I discovered reading. I really spent time on books but slowly and steadily my interest improved.

Now karma or life or whatever you want to call it has come full circle, my little girl spends hours on the TV. Our TV has—actually, I have no idea how many channels.In addition she texts, streams, gaming, Facebook, IM, You Tube, Instagram, and Lord knows what else.
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My plan was simple. I decided to sit her down and make her understand the importance of not spending too much time on the TV and these other gadgets. Some of these benefits are

  1. Children are healthier– They are physically active, indulge much more in sports and outdoor activities. And in general, are definitely not victims of childhood obesity and other health disorders – which is a common phenomenon in the homes of those children who watch excessive TV.
  2. Children are more creative– Yes! You can see the differences in the way they approach anything they do. They take an active interest in some art form (be it drawing / painting, etc), indoor games and enjoy such activities for hours at length. Good that the creative juices are flowing!
  3. Children have better social interaction skills– Again, such children are more expressive and communicative, and hence end up with better “real-life” social interaction skills. You’re more likely to see them around the block (simply because there’s no TV to keep you busy), and they say “Hello” or smile at you when you meet, than the “TV kids” who are hardly seen out of their homes!

So we agreed that she would be spending less than 2 hours on the TV every day. Since like my father before me I refused to negotiate. I did inform her of the terms. I didn’t want to take away the TV completely because in my view completely taking away the TV is also detrimental.

The TV is one of the best inventions of the century. And is also one of the most important sources of knowledge and information. The challenge for most of us (children and adults) is self-control and finding that balance between using TV as an “Idiot Box” , “Learning channel” and “Entertainment Medium”.

As she spends less and less hours on the TV I reward her.Now we spend much more family quality time together and are a much happier family. We go for walks. We swim. We work out together.

 

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