In our house, Turn Your TV Off Week (aka Digital Detox Week and Turnoff Week) corresponded with spring break. Not to mention the NHL playoffs, the arrival of my new iPad and my 8-year-old’s discovery of his glorious ability to use the DVR to watch Phineas and Ferb at any opportunity. No way were we turning off. We’re a big, busy, active family, and we welcomed a little chance to turn on. I know what’s best for my kids, and you, sanctimonious school district with your “Turn it Off” handouts, can go turn off your own television to your heart’s content–but keep your mitts off my remote.
I know, I know. I got the memo. Kids today watch too much television. Turn it on, and you might as well sit down and spoon-feed them a tub of lard and put a down payment on their gastric bypass surgery, since, what with their falling grades and inability to concentrate on anything for longer than the length of a Pringles commercial, they’ll scarcely be able to pay for it themselves. And it’s not just television–no, it’s screen time of all types that’s sucking away the creativity and energy of our country’s youth. Turn it off for a week, and return to the glories of a simpler time.
I don’t buy it. Adbusters, promoters of Digital Detox week, are always after us to question the media message, and I question this one. Yes, I’ve seen the studies that suggest that kids who play video games spend less time on schoolwork and the Kaiser Foundation report finding that teenagers are spending practically every minute online. I’ve also seen studies reporting that watching PBS Kids’ SuperWhy helps kids learn to read , and that video games promote community and problems-solving ability among teens.
I think Alison Gopnik, author of The Philosophical Baby, put it brilliantly when I spoke to her about kids and branding for Slate earlier this year:”If you’re already worried about this, you probably don’t need to be, and if you’ve never worried about it at all, maybe you should.” While I’m all for getting out for a hike, or spending a Zen moment contemplating your relationship with your computer (both Adbusters suggestions–found online–for celebrating this week of turning off), I suspect that if you’re the kind of person who turns off your TV for TV Turnoff week, you, like Sierra Black, are the kind of person–with the kind of family–whose television isn’t really on that much in the first place.
Plus, in spite of Madeline’s awesomely headlined blog post (Survey: Most Parents Don’t Know What They’re Doing) I really hate being told what to do. And, finally, there are all of the aforementioned factors arguing against a full digital turn-off in our house: four kids on spring break, two working parents and one overburdened babysitter with two kids herself, a break from the after-school sports and activities that usually fill our spare time, and, of course, the NHL playoffs (go Bruins!). Go ahead, turn off your TV. If your kids want to watch, they can come over to our place.