1) You get your time back
Recent studies indicate that most people spend between 2 - 6 hours per day sitting in front of a television or computer. That is 14 - 46 hours per week, or between one to 3.5 full days just watching stuff! How many times have you been half -way through a Saturday morning, still sitting in your pyjama's on the couch and wondering where the last 4 hours went? and what the heck you had been watching all morning?!
Over the course of a year, according to current statistics, you could have easily have spent between two and six full months just sitting in front of a television or another electronic device.
In university there were a few lecturers who described amazing, adventurous, creative lives full of so many things that I was prompted to ask "how the heck do you get all of the time to do this stuff? I never seem to have time for anything" and the answer was "I don't own a television".
A few years ago I wrote my very first post about parenting in the absence of television. Those very first days of removing the television for any significant length of time were torture! Our children did not know what to do with themselves. They experienced television withdrawal, insisting on forcing themselves to take naps at odd times, hoping that they would wake to their television plugged back in and safely where it belonged. And finally, their (then, schooling) friends did not want to visit because we had a 'boring' house with nothing to do but stare at blank walls apparently!
It was then that I realised we had a problem. Surely staring at walls when a televison wasn't on, wasn't normal was it?
So we pursued the idea of very limited television for our children and teenagers and here are a few reasons why I think life would be a heck of a lot better if we could start a movement and all try it - just for a week! or a month! or until Easter!
I guarantee it will change your life!
2) Children have a chance to be bored
My experience is that my children never bore of technology
They just don't.
Research has shown that (freedom and autonomy or not) boredom is beneficial for children. When children are not artificially mentally stimulated, they have time and mental space that is their own. Space that is not filled by other people's stories and characters that do not exist beyond television. And space to think about what they would like to do with their own time (beyond being bored). When children are bored they have the greatest potential for mental growth and development because they actually have to think about what they would like to do with their time. And then go about doing it!
3) It brings your family together
Internet, televisions and computers hold the key to (figuratively) the entire universe inside them and everything the world has to offer.
But simultaneously, nothing that the world has to offer. Children are constantly over-stimulated and involved in watching something though not physically doing anything. Internet technology gives children (and adults) a portal into a world where they can essentially be sitting next to a person but living a life that is entirely without that person in it. The people they talk to, the world they inhabit, is a singular world without their parents or siblings inside it. And similarly watching television and computer games for many hours every days offers the illusion that fictional characters are living and breathing people, that tv worlds are part of the real world, and that you are somehow a part of that.
Even temporarily switching off those portals and television shows gives you the opportunity to look at the world around you, talk to the people who are next to you, find things that you like to do together (and have the time to do them more often). Turning off the television allows your children and adolescents to reconnect with your family as not only people that they live with, but people who are an essential and meaningful part of their life. In this age of technology, bonding and meaningful engagement with family is not as effortless as it once was, and requires purpose and intent, work and measures to make it happen! And not having unlimited access to television makes that process easier and more effective.
4) It makes life more interesting
My brother said to me just the other day that some of the best times that we had together were after a cyclone had hit! Crazy huh?! Times when we were sweltering together without a fan or air conditioning to keep us comfortable, reading, talking or playing games by candle-light and listening to the same music. Being without electricity, television or the comforts that we usually had, forced us to interact with each other as a family, get out of our house and talk to neighbours, visit friends (without any notice - the phones were down too!) and do things together as a family, neighbourhood and community. Living without the television on all of the time mimics that sense of discomfort and connectedness.
When you are without constant entertainment, you find something to entertain yourself with. When your children are staring at a blank wall, mourning the loss of fictitious tv friends they are more likely to be excited by the prospect of going out the beach, or checking out a market up the road, or playing football at the park. There are more opportunities for early-morning adventures, in a time that might have easily been taken up with catching up on episodes of your favourite shows, or becoming engrossed in watching music video clips for hours. After dinner your kids might want to learn how to play chess (and finally break it open after 3 years of it sitting unused on the shelf). You may have time for conversations that you never had before, or teaching your children guitar (which you always intended to do but never had time for).
5) It forces you to become an active participant in life
Television and the internet can become like a drug with over-use. A substitute for difficult relationships (there is always someone online to talk to), an injection of drama and misery when you are feeling that the world is dramatic and miserable and a way to back up negative beliefs about the world around us and our position as passive watchers of life. The news is a certain example of this. Stop watching the news for a month and see how much more positive you are about life!
We know that consistently watching difficult or traumatic events that we have no control over makes us feel unsafe, threatened and can lead to post-traumatic stress - this was highlighted after September 11 when psychologists urged parents to turn off the television for the mental health for children. And in the same way, ceasing to be a passive observer of the traumatic events of the world, takes you out of this role - forcing you to actively participate in your life. And your children to actively participate in theirs.
6) Movie Nights Become a Big Event!
If you are not watching television often, and you break out the tv for movie night, it can feel like all of your Christmases have come at once. And watching television for a few hours once a week or once a fortnight as a family can become as big an event as going out to the cinemas.
If it is all a bit scary and confronting, maybe do a week's trial and see how you go?
I promise you it will be an enlightening experience!