Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Blow up the tv--or not

The above is footage (grainy and shaky) from one of my favorite John Prine songs, Spanish Pipedream. The chorus goes:

Blow up your T.V. throw away your paper
Go to the country, build you a home
Plant a little garden, eat a lot of peaches
Try an find Jesus on your own

This week is Turn Off Your TV week, which has, as Lisa Belkin explains, has become about turning off all kinds of screens. But she thinks the whole thing is hooey:

This project also makes me cranky because I like screens. I like using them myself and with my children. Television and computers helped me raise my kids. The length of a video can be enough time to take a shower of start dinner when you have a toddler; a computer can be a portal to friends and homework and the morning newspaper as children grow. And many an important conversation — about sex and drugs and right and wrong — has been triggered with my teens by watching “Lost.”

But mostly it’s because I have come to question rah-rah, all-or-nothing statements for subtle situations. If 70 percent of day-care centers use television during a typical day, then the answer is to talk to your day-care provider. If 66 percent of Americans watch television while eating dinner, then turn off your set while you eat. If you are only clocking 39 minutes of meaningful conversation during the week — start talking. If televisions in bedrooms are bad, remove them. If your kids are watching too much television, unplug the darn thing.

Banning screens completely for a week won’t make any of the above happen. More likely, it will send the message that “we’ve done our part, and now we can go back to normal."
We constantly evaluate our screen use. We have limits for our kids, and we don't put computers or the television into an all good or all bad category. How you use the tools is what matters. This week, Geeky Girl and I are watching Hamlet together, in preparation for her role as Laertes in a school production. It's caused us to have many of the discussions that Belkin mentions. I never thought I'd have to talk about how women were treated during the Shakespeare's time, but Ophelia's and the Queen's roles made me have that conversation. We also have family time around the tv, watching shows or movies together. I think as long as your own viewing isn't all or nothing, you're okay. Turn of the tv week does nothing to help people moderate their viewing.