Surprising benefits of a TV ban

What you're missing out on while watching TV ...
What you're missing out on while watching TV ... Photo: Getty Images

When the squabbling got to be too much, and there was a general decline in behaviour, Mel Hearse called time on TV for a week, with some very positive results.

This time a few weeks ago, give or take a few hours, I was standing dripping wet in the lounge room, looking at my kids in total disbelief. Seconds into my shower they had decided to battle it out, and I had to come back in to negotiate calm. As I stood there with conditioner running down my back, unbrushed teeth and a sneaking suspicion the second I got back under the water the fight would erupt again, I called time on TV and the computer. One week, no television. In my house of book, television and movie obsessed folk, this was a BIG DEAL.

Yup, we watch too much

The first thing I realised during the ban was that we watch entirely too much TV and spend too much time on PCs, and I am the worst offender. The second thing we all realised is that we actually didn’t miss it much – in fact, we liked it off. The third thing we noticed is that it takes a lot of activities and ideas to keep a TV and computer free life going – in a good way.

I did have a little google to see whether our family was abnormally obsessed with all things screen based (that mum thing of needing to know if your parenting choices are “normal” or not.) I found we are on par with most Aussie households - the latest Australian Bureau of Statistics study shows the proportion of children who watch TV, videos or DVDs outside of school hours is 96%, and the average number of hours spent watching TV, videos or DVDs is 15 hours.

What to do?

There is nothing in this story for families that don’t watch a lot of TV – if anything, just the opportunity to shake your head at how silly most of my musings and realisations are. But for those of you that find the TV or computing hours creeping up, I promise, after day one, you’ll suddenly find your kids become more helpful and creative. When your activities suddenly require a partner in crime, you want to preserve the relationship with the one that shares most of your interests, after realising their sibling was the only person in the house truly interested in the games and activities they enjoy, my boys started getting along so the other wouldn’t utter the words “I’m not playing.” Suddenly the eldest child could relax his 15 point rule book on any given activity (after his brother stormed off in boredom for the third time.) Suddenly my youngest could actually spare the time to listen and learn how to play something after his older brother threw his hands in the air and walked off because he wasn’t playing it properly. So what did we get up to?

Chess and other board games: The Uno, chess board, Monopoly and Life got a thorough workout and was a great choice for that ‘not time for reading and bed, but too dark and cold to be outdoors’ time.

Dancing: I had no idea how long it had been since we last threw on a CD and danced like crazy people for a solid half hour at a time.

Growing our own: The last afternoon of the TV ban saw us running out of ideas, so we went down to our local hardware store, grabbed a length of chicken wire and wooden stakes, and a few packets of seeds. Then we prepped the earth, planted the seeds and blocked off the area to stop the dogs from digging them up. It’ll be a while until we see the fruits … well, vegetables, of our labour, but we had a great time chatting and planning what we could cook with them when they were done.

Anything outdoors: Our kids are already pretty outdoorsy, but never have the bikes or the trampoline seen so much action.

Make believe: As a kid, my sister and I used to play a lot of make believe games that could span hours. We’d build tents and be campers, we’d hide ‘clues’ for each other to solve a mystery. Mine got up to these activities and added a new one – they took their old magnetic Bakagon characters out of storage and one would hide them in the backyard for the other to find (we have dogs, so the magnets came in handy for hiding them up high where they wouldn’t be eaten.)

Once the ban was over, we found we were slow to put it back on. We realised we’d been missing out on family fun – the family that watches TV together really does just ignore each other! Don’t get me wrong, we still love our TV and computer time, we just make sure we get stuck into the other stuff a lot more.  

What activities do your family do instead of vegging out in front of the box? Leave your comment below.

When the squabbling got to be too much, and there was a general decline in behaviour, Mel Hearse called time on TV for a week, with some very positive results.