“No TV,” I said. “No computer. No videos. No LeapPad. We are going to have a screen-free week.”
“Hooray!” my daughter shouted. “I love that idea! Can we start today?”
And no, she wasn’t being sarcastic. She was genuinely excited about having a screen-free week—so much so that enthusiastically shared this news with anyone who would listen and suggested that we make it two weeks, not just one.
Her reaction surprised me. A lot. You see, she was one of the main reasons I decided we needed a little break from the screen. She is the kid who always wants to watch something or play video games. Recently, we went to a nature fair, and at every tent, we stopped to learn more about animals and their habitats. At every tent, my daughter engaged the naturalist in conversation by spouting off what she had learned from Wild Kratts and Animal Planet.
I felt a little embarrassed. I was certain the naturalists were all looking at me and thinking, “Lady, your kid watches way too much TV.” Their judgment was probably all in my head, but I always feel a little judged when in the presence of people who are crunchier than I am. I wanted to defend myself against the imagined accusations. I wanted to yell, “But at least it’s not junk TV! My kid isn’t watching all the usual kid-crap! She watches educational stuff! PBS!” And I wanted to tell them that I read that the average child spends about eight hours in front of a television every day. Mine don’t. My kids watch far less than the average—and it’s still too much.
I admit that the imaginary judgment I feel come from my own convictions and persnicketiness. I believe the most boring people in the world are those who talk about what they have seen on TV. I don’t want my daughter to be a boring person.
You know who else is boring? People who write about television—like I am doing right now. And that brings me to the second person in our household who really needed a screen-free week—ME.
I don’t watch much TV. I watch Downton Abbey for the eight short weeks that it is on, and I occasionally tune into Sister Wives or My Five Wives. So, it’s high-brow British, period drama or low-brow American reality shows for me. Nothin’ inbetween! And I never see these shows when they air. I watch them late at night on-demand while I am folding clothes. In fact, my cable carrier dropped Sister Wives from their on-demand selection, and now, I am behind by several episodes. And I don’t care. That’s how little the boob-tube means to me.
No, my vice isn’t television. It’s Internet. And yes, I see the irony in every on-line, anti-Internet opinion piece I read, and yet, what am I doing? Using the Internet to post my own rant. I get it.
Unless I make a conscientious effort to stay away from the Internet, I will get sucked in. I’ll post a status on Facebook–or perhaps a picture. Then, I have to return to it a dozen times to see if anyone has “liked” my one-liner or photograph. Did they comment on it? Should I comment back to the commenter or just “like” the comment? And while I’m here, let me “like” this picture of a grumpy cat, a new recipe for salsa, and all these vacation photos my friends are posting. Bible verses, inspirational quotes, and memes that make fun of people who are as addicted to Facebook as I am. Oh, what’s this? Let me click on this blog about archaeology. Maybe I will share it.
I’ll purposefully avoid anything political or otherwise controversial because if Facebook has taught me anything, it’s that Americans believe in Freedom of Speech—provided they agree with the speaker. No one posts anything with the intention of stimulating meaningful conversation. We all just want the calming reassurance of being “liked.” I think that’s called “agreement” in face-to-face interactions.
The point here is that I get sucked in, and Facebook isn’t my only on-line time vacuum. I’ll read celebrity “news” and poorly edited articles about horrific crimes. If I comment on these, I then will return to the comments to see if my comment generated any comments. The desire to read the comments about my comment is an ego-thing. I really don’t like that about myself. And I am painfully aware that I’ve used the word “comment” a lot. That’s what too much Internet will do for you–reduce your vocabulary.
I’ll go to the Community Board of Baby Center and chat with a group of women I befriended on-line when my daughter was a newborn. We’ve “talked” almost daily for almost seven years, and I love these gals. I don’t consider my interaction with them to be a waste of time since we are scattered all around the country and don’t have the opportunity to get together in person. However, once I’ve posted on our forum, I tend to log in again and again to see if anyone else has posted. Doing that—the checking of one website 16 times in one day—is a waste of time.
Recently, I discovered blogs about Sister Wives and a couple of forums on reality shows. No, I’m not watching Sister Wives this season because I can’t get it on-demand, but that hasn’t stopped me from reading about their antics. Yeah, that’s an excellent little time-waster. As my on-line friends might say, “Klassy.”
Yep, I’m wasting time, getting fat, and setting a lousy example for my children. When I spend hours staring at a screen, I am not living my own convictions. I feel guilty about that. And so, it’s got to change. I’ve got to change.
And so, I announced our family’s week-long no-screen commitment. My daughter was on-board 100%. My son isn’t much of a screen-addict and if his sister isn’t staring at a television or a computer, then, neither is he. My husband only watches old movies in the wee-hours when he can’t sleep. So, it should have been easy, right?
When I shared my intentions with my friends, I told them that I was going to have to unearth a phone book. I don’t know when I last flipped through yellow pages of advertisements and small print to find a number or an address. And directions? When is the last time I had to look at a map? Still, I know how to use a phonebook and I know how to read a map. And it’s only for one week. One week.
The real complication comes from the need to communicate with others who aren’t having a screen-free week. Sure, I can put an out-going message on my email telling people to call me because I’m not answering email, and I can do something similar on other message boards, but will anyone listen?
And I have agreed to host some club events. Those events have to be posted on a website.
Girl Scout registration? On-line.
Library book reservations? On-line.
Blood-test results? On-line.
Summer camp-information? On-line.
Clearly, for me to be truly screen-free for an entire week, it’s going to take a little more planning than what I had first considered. And it’s not going to happen this week because I’m ill-prepared. And now, instead of a screen-free week, I think I might prefer a limited-screen summer. Monitoring the time I have in front of a computer and keeping my children too busy to watch much television may be more productive than going cold-turkey for just one week. I’m not ruling out the cold-turkey approach. I’m just saying it won’t happen right now, and in the meantime, we will be prudent with our limited screen-time.
My first challenge will be to post this blog entry and NOT come back to see how many hits I received. Yeah, who am I kidding? If you leave a comment, I WILL be back to read it.