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Monday, April 29, 2013

Screen-free Week: Apr 29 - May 5, 2013

screen-free week

It seems like only yesterday I was writing about this very same topic and here I am again, a year later.

This year, besides our usual house rule of "School Days are not Watch Days" which has become second nature to us, we've revisited what "screen free" means for us. Web-chat with grandparents? Playing LetsTans? Browsing cake wrecks? Am sure it will evolve over time as kids grow older.

If the initial intention of this movement was to reduce the passive television watching time for kids, I am sure the message is very much embedded in our collective societal minds by now.

What about those little handheld devices - phones with screens that do more than phone calls?

Since I don't have a smartphone/iDevice I  have no reason to be staring at this small rectangular screen while pretending to be listening to my kids as I am 'just checking my email or posting an FB status'.

If I do have a pet peeve these days (don't I have a lot of those!) it is that how ubiquitous it has become for adults to hold a device in their palm, focus their eyes on it, and try to carry on a conversation with another at the same time.

Sure, the device provides many advantages, one can check one's calendar/email, share photos right away, organize social events, be efficient... and I am sure I have been secretly yearning to own one. I have nothing against the device per se, clearly.

But, when one is interacting with another human being in person, it seems a terribly rude message to say, 'You are not important enough for me to look at your eyes when I talk to you now and give you my undivided attention for these few minutes; I'd really rather be looking at this inanimate device which is amazingly indispensable for me. Sure I am listening to your words, I am responding to your words aren't I? Am having a conversation with you. So what if my eyes are not on you?'

Moving on, I think if and when I get the smartphone device that I've been resisting - not that I am a Luddite or anything, well, actually, I might be and not even know it - I think I'll certainly revisit this particular pet peeve and see it in a new light and be more tolerant and understanding, I'm sure. (Not)

As to television, it is going to remain turned off this week, not because this is a special week, not because we'll be denying ourselves something special, but because School Days are not Watch Days for us as we have plenty of other things we enjoy doing... and, when we do get our 'watch time' on weekends, we know it is one of the things we've chosen to do among many other choices that day.

Incidentally, besides JKRowling whom she idolizes, asking about when she started to write and reveling in the anecdote of how Rowling was rejected by quite a few  publishers before Harry Potter was accepted for publishing, the 8 yo has also been quite fascinated with Roald Dahl since the beginning of this year.

She loves this piece by Dahl which I have printed out and stuck on their playroom wall, and seems like a perfect spokes-poem for the theme of the week.


Television
The most important thing we've learned,
So far as children are concerned,
Is never, NEVER, NEVER let
Them near your television set --
Or better still, just don't install
The idiotic thing at all.
In almost every house we've been,
We've watched them gaping at the screen.
They loll and slop and lounge about,
And stare until their eyes pop out.
(Last week in someone's place we saw
A dozen eyeballs on the floor.)
They sit and stare and stare and sit
Until they're hypnotised by it,
Until they're absolutely drunk
With all that shocking ghastly junk.
Oh yes, we know it keeps them still,
They don't climb out the window sill,
They never fight or kick or punch,
They leave you free to cook the lunch
And wash the dishes in the sink --
But did you ever stop to think,
To wonder just exactly what
This does to your beloved tot?
IT ROTS THE SENSE IN THE HEAD!
IT KILLS IMAGINATION DEAD!
IT CLOGS AND CLUTTERS UP THE MIND!
IT MAKES A CHILD SO DULL AND BLIND
HE CAN NO LONGER UNDERSTAND
A FANTASY, A FAIRYLAND!
HIS BRAIN BECOMES AS SOFT AS CHEESE!
HIS POWERS OF THINKING RUST AND FREEZE!
HE CANNOT THINK -- HE ONLY SEES!
'All right!' you'll cry. 'All right!' you'll say,
'But if we take the set away,
What shall we do to entertain
Our darling children? Please explain!'
We'll answer this by asking you,
'What used the darling ones to do?
'How used they keep themselves contented
Before this monster was invented?'
Have you forgotten? Don't you know?
We'll say it very loud and slow:
THEY ... USED ... TO ... READ! They'd READ and READ,
AND READ and READ, and then proceed
To READ some more. Great Scott! Gadzooks!
One half their lives was reading books!
The nursery shelves held books galore!
Books cluttered up the nursery floor!
And in the bedroom, by the bed,
More books were waiting to be read!
Such wondrous, fine, fantastic tales
Of dragons, gypsies, queens, and whales
And treasure isles, and distant shores
Where smugglers rowed with muffled oars,
And pirates wearing purple pants,
And sailing ships and elephants,
And cannibals crouching 'round the pot,
Stirring away at something hot.
(It smells so good, what can it be?
Good gracious, it's Penelope.)
The younger ones had Beatrix Potter
With Mr. Tod, the dirty rotter,
And Squirrel Nutkin, Pigling Bland,
And Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle and-
Just How The Camel Got His Hump,
And How the Monkey Lost His Rump,
And Mr. Toad, and bless my soul,
There's Mr. Rat and Mr. Mole-
Oh, books, what books they used to know,
Those children living long ago!
So please, oh please, we beg, we pray,
Go throw your TV set away,
And in its place you can install
A lovely bookshelf on the wall.
Then fill the shelves with lots of books,
Ignoring all the dirty looks,
The screams and yells, the bites and kicks,
And children hitting you with sticks-
Fear not, because we promise you
That, in about a week or two
Of having nothing else to do,
They'll now begin to feel the need
Of having something to read.
And once they start -- oh boy, oh boy!
You watch the slowly growing joy
That fills their hearts. They'll grow so keen
They'll wonder what they'd ever seen
In that ridiculous machine,
That nauseating, foul, unclean,
Repulsive television screen!
And later, each and every kid
Will love you more for what you did.


--Roald Dahl


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