When I pick my daughter up from school, the first thing she asks is, "What can we do when we get home?" If I'm not quick enough with a response, which is usually because I don't have a plan, she almost immediately interjects with "Can we watch TV?" She knows from experience that I tend to be more willing to let her watch TV as opposed to the many other more active things she could be doing. My wife doesn't fall for the coy smile or even the promise of some personal time to relax or catch up on housework, she is far too steadfastly committed to her plans to be duped by her children. Regardless, I've become particularly concerned lately with the amount of media my children are exposed to on a daily basis, and I'm guilty of contributing to their desire for more passive entertainment. This is not to say that we watch the television all day long; our girls spend much of their time together engaged in imaginative play. My oldest daughter is particularly resistant to break character, staying engaged in imaginative roles for hours on end. But alas, my children are addicted to images on screen. This post was not initially meant to be a diatribe about the ill effects of media on children (research has made that point explicitly clear), but I started writing and this is where I end up. Consider for a moment the impact that images children view have on their perception of the world: the roles of men and women, violence, food choices, the value of beauty, and the importance of money; and that's just the commercials.
Earlier this year, filmmaker Jennifer Siebel Newsom made the documentary, Missrepresentation. The movie focuses on the role media has in shaping the social context in which women and girls are perceived in our society. I would not have ever seen this movie, which appeared on Oprah Winfrey's cable channel last week, if not for a few independent, strong, female voices encouraging me to see it. This movie challenged my perceptions, and changed my perspective. Here's the extended trailer (probably not appropriate for watching WITH young children, even if you're watching critically).
Being the father of two bright, and beautiful female children, I've come to realize I need to make a change in my behavior and tolerance toward their media diet. And, that's indeed what it comes down to. My kids are going on a strict TV diet, in fact, the Koncikowski's are all going on a strict TV diet. This has been brewing in my mind for some time, ever since a colleague of mine, a fellow chiropractor, told me that during the summer months, his family turns off all television and the whole family takes in as much reading and recreation as possible. Our lives right now are extremely busy and we barely have time for all the housework, let alone the recreation we'd like, yet somehow we find time to recreate in front of the boobtube. That time is a waste, and nothing of value can be garnered from it. Plus, I want my daughters to grow up with the confidence that their intelligence and imagination matter more than their looks or the money in their pockets. If you agree with this point, then join us by unplugging your television for the month of November. The Koncikowski's are going to see just how much we can get done without the distraction of the idiot box. If it works, we may just be forced to sell our television, which brings me to my next point; anyone in the market for a gently used Samsung 42 inch flatscreen? :)
Here is a short list of things you can do with your kids minus television:
1. Practice yoga together
2. Rake some leaves into a pile...jump into the pile
3. Put on some music and have a dance party
4. Teach the kids to help prepare dinner
5. Visit your local library
6. Go through the old toys and children's clothes...donate unused items to charity
7. Assemble a puzzle as a family
8. Take a drive to the country...peep the leaves
9. Write a story together
10. Build awesome roller coasters out of your video cases, books and blocks
I'm sure we'll have to figure out many more. Wish us luck.