Initially the idea was mine, but now both my husband and I embrace not having a TV; he’s come to look forward to going out to watch the important games and I have stopped watching hours of mindless home decorating shows when I could be more productive. For him it’s a great excuse to get together with buddies and drink beer on game night, guilt-free (what can I say, I got rid of our TV!). He’s also found out that live-streaming on my 26-inch computer is a reasonable substitute, and has always been nostalgically fond of old-school radio play-by-plays. Not having cable also saves us a monthly bill. Win-win, I say!
This week (April 30 to May 6) is Screen-Free Week, an annual event where people are encouraged to “turn off screens and turn on life,” according to the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood website which first spearheaded the movement in 1996. CCFC also suggests that children spend an astonishing average of 32 hours a week for preschoolers and even more for older children in front of screens. This includes TV, video games, computers, smart phones and other hand-held devices.’
Most would agree excessive screen time is harmful for our children, leading to poor performance in school, childhood obesity, and attention problems. For years France has been on the leading edge of the science behind screens and children, and in the past couple years even the Pediatric Association of the U.S. has determined that there is no acceptable amount of screen time for children under the age of 2. Remember all those lawsuits against the creators of Baby Einstein?
Regardless of whether kids are consuming “good” or “bad” programming, screens are the delivery method of choice for marketers who recognize that media dominates the lives of many kids. Brand recognition begins before kids have even entered preschool — it’s what marketers call “consumers for life.” Licensed brands and lines of clothing and accessories are only one example of this. The fact that kids will beg mercilessly for something with a favourite character on it is only one way big companies are getting control of your hard-earned dollars.
The idea behind Screen-Free Week is something our family has embraced, particularly when it comes to our children, and it’s been an incredible springboard for quality lifestyle changes and choices ever since. Kim John Payne, co-author of Simplicity Parenting, makes the point: “You can give your child a little bit of poison, or a lot. The choice is yours. But it’s still poison.”
That 26-inch iMac we have comes in handy for things other than work and the odd hockey game — we grown-ups still take a swig from the “bottle” with the big skull and crossbones on it from time to time. We like our movies, documentaries and are faithful to a couple of series on HBO. But that all takes place under the cloak of darkness, when the kids are fast asleep.