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Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Get Weaned from the Screen!

The original "PlayStation"!

It's almost "No Time for TV Week" at Ashaway School!  All of the details about how the program works can be found by clicking on the links below.  Each student will receive a copy at school but you are welcome to print another copy if you need it:

I'm going over the guidelines with every class this week.  After explaining how the form works and what they need to do to earn a prize, I spend some time answering questions.  Most of the questions, as always, start with the words "What if...?"  For example:

"What if our teacher shows a video during class, or we need to look up a book on the computer?"  
(That's okay; it says on the form that screen time spent on required schoolwork won't count.)  

"What if my brother isn't doing it and turns on the TV?"
(We brainstorm together what some options might be: going to another room, inviting your brother to do a different activity with you, or even trying to convince your brother -- or better yet, the whole family! -- to participate with you!)

"What if someone has the TV on and I'm walking by the room and I see it?"
(Yep, I get this one over and over, every single year.   The answer is basically "keep walking!")

Then there are all the questions that begin with "What about...?"  These used to be easier to answer.  For example:

"What about watching a DVD?  What about watching a video on YouTube?"
(Well, since you'd need a screen to watch it, that would count as "screen time"!)

"What about playing a game on an iPad?"
(That would also be "screen time"!)

"What about watching an educational TV show?"
(Nice try.  I do know that some TV programs can be educational, but there are plenty of other options for learning something new!)

"What about Wii Fit?"
(That would also be "screen time".  As one of the PE teachers put it, "There's a big difference between swinging your arms around in front of a television and going to a park to play tennis!")

What it all comes down to, I explain, is that No Time for TV Week is all about choices.  It's about taking one single week to really think about how much time we spend in front of a screen.  I stress that my message isn't that TV, video games, and computers are inherently bad.  It's just that too much isn't good for you.  I always use the candy analogy: a piece now and then won't hurt you, but eating it all the time in place of better choices isn't healthy!  That's why Ashaway adopted a program for "No TV Week" in which kids earn points for engaging in a variety of activities that will exercise the mind and body!

"Look, Ma! No commercials!"

And that brings us to the more recent "What abouts" that I've been hearing.  Things like:
"What about reading a book on my Kindle?"
"What about listening to music on my iPod?"
"What about using a Playaway to hear a story?  That has a screen..."

Once upon a time, I would've responded without giving it much thought; like the "educational television", I'd point out that there are plenty of other options to choose from.  But lately I've been thinking a lot harder about it.  In many households today, the way folks listen to music is on devices with screens.  I removed the dozens of audio cassettes in the library several years ago because they simply didn't circulate anymore.  Kids went from being excited about taking them home to complaining that they didn't have the equipment to play them on.  Recently I started asking my students if they have an iPad or e-reader, and I was shocked by the number of hands that went up.  And now I'm hearing multiple students tell me about the book they downloaded to read at home.

So where does that leave us with the questions above?  Personally, I'd say that all three would count toward earning points.  After all, both reading and listening to music are listed under "exercise the mind", and I always tell students that having a book read to them is a wonderful way to spend some time.  It's unlikely the child is going to pull up music on an iPod and then stare at the screen as the seconds count off.  Same goes for the Playaway.  (Maybe they close their eyes and listen, build a new creation with Legos, or perhaps even clean their rooms!  Yeah, I know...but you can tell them that it does help chore time go faster.  I can't imagine doing housework without a Podcast to listen to.)

Ultimately, when it comes to all the "What ifs" and "What abouts" I tell the students to ask the adult who will be signing the form at the end of the week.  I leave it up to the parents and guardians to make the final call on what "counts" and what doesn't.  After all, I would've earned quite a few checks for the time I've spent writing this blog entry, if it's okay that I typed it on the computer instead of on paper!  (And yes, the television was off!)

Just for fun, try playing No Time for TV Bingo!
Click on the links below to print!

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