Today marks the beginning of "Turnoff Week." For a week, we're supposed to turn off all screens from TVs to computers to cell phones. This one week without any connectivity is supposed to make us healthier, smarter and more close to our families. I find the whole thing absurd.
I understand the theories. We're spending too much time isolated in front of screens and not enough time outside, being active and just socializing together. Children, in particular are spending far too much time being pacified by passive media such as TV programming and mindless video games.
Unfortunately, the over-simplified arguments from the Center for Screen-Time Awareness and other Turnoff Week advocates don't add up:
1. All screen time is not created equal. Designing your own video game is not the same as playing one. Filming your own movie isn't the same as watching one. And writing a book on your computer isn't the same as reading one. Oh, wait...
2. Print media receives no comment. Print media is somehow exempt from the evils of electronic media. Despite the fact that it also is a passive, inactive and individual activity, consuming print media is somehow better according to screen-time activists.
3. It just doesn't add up. Electronic media doesn't equal passive time. It doesn't equal solo time. And it doesn't equal sedentary time. Sure, there are plenty of electronic activities that fall into those categories, but there are more than enough that don't.
4. Turnoff week is the media equivalent of the fad diet. Turning off all electronic media for a week is not a solution. It's not even a step in the right direction. Anyone with a basic understanding of human psychology knows that depriving someone of something they enjoy just makes them want it all that much more. Fad diets don't work for a reason. Most nutritionists will tell you that there is no magic pill to a healthy lifestyle. It's simply about making healthy choices every day and keeping unhealthy choices to a minimum.
Rather than going without any electronic media for a week, how about encouraging people to spend an hour more family time each week all year long? Or to spend another 45 minutes a week doing something fun outside? Electronic media isn't the enemy. Those of us who succeed in living balanced, healthy lives should be able to incorporate a variety of activities. That we fail at that has nothing to do with media and everything to do with human nature.
My one concession to Turnoff week is that it is environmentally friendly. So, I say rather than turning off all of your electronic media, try something different. Make it a point to spend some extra family time together engaged with each other. Add in some physical activity (even if it's a bowling tournament on your Wii), and allow yourself to be aware of how much time you're spending watching TV, playing solo video games and brainlessly surfing the web. Cut back a little on all of your passive time and use it towards something you feel is productive. Then come back and let me know how it goes...
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