Screen-Free Week

Bike Tube

Stop watching the tube and get out and ride a bike during Screen-Free Week 2011. Photo: VickiHartmanClay sculpture wall hanging via Etsy.

Last week I took a staycation retreat with my husband. We wanted an environment that was not our own to focus on our business goals for the coming six months.

So we got a room at the lovely Stonewall Jackson Hotel just a few blocks from our house.

While we did get a lot of work done, in some ways I’m amazed that we did. The biggest obstacle? That shiny box of electronic delights: The TV.

Hotel remote control as gateway drug

We don’t have a TV at home. And these days, unless you have cable, in most areas you can’t get reception. But either way, we have no use for all those brainless channels and certainly don’t need another hefty bill to pay each month.

Sure, we have a flat screen monitor with built in DVD for watching movies—which we love. Especially with homemade pizza on Friday’s family night. But otherwise, the kids have no access to the tube during the week and Erik and I just watch the occasional Jon Stewart episode online or a Netflix pick.

But put me in a hotel room and boy, separating my hand from that remote control is nothing short of miraculous.

Me with unfettered access to a TV was an anthropological study in 1) the experience of culture shock 2) the potential for addiction and 3) the beginnings of carpel tunnel syndrome. I just couldn’t stop watching the thing.

In which my brain became mush

First, I finally got to see what a Snooki is and how she “rolls.”

Then there was a never ending supply of over-exuberant home makeovers for consumer-fixated desperados who for whatever reason wanted to theme each room as if they lived at Disneyland.

Then you got your assorted menu of chef-offs, including a challenge to down six “Fat Sandwiches” in 45 minutes in order to win sandwich-naming rights at R. U. Hungry, a Rutgers area grease truck institution.

Then there were the half hour long hot-bod lose-weight get-in-shape video package infomercials (with free gifts). I so wanted those—only $149.99 if I had acted then!

Throw in a few History Channel ghost stories, a reality TV traumatic dating fracas, the March Madness VCU-Butler game and, oddly enough, Deliverance, The Shawshank Redemption, various final scenes on Law and Order and a Debbie Reynolds retrospective on Turner Classics.

I was hooked.

I’m so glad we got take out so I wouldn’t miss anything.

Focus, focus

Yet somehow I also wrote a six-month strategic plan for our business and magazines. It must have been all the pixelated inspiration. Or perhaps it was leaving the room to work in the atrium.

Be that as it may, after returning to our decidely unplugged home I’ve not missed Tube Nation a bit.

In fact we’re gearing up to celebrate Screen-Free Week, which you may know from its earlier incarnation as TV Turnoff Week. It’s a joint effort by the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood and a raft of endorsers to help lift families from slavish devotion to Sponge Bob and X-Box, among other mind-sucks.

A different kind of channel surfing

This year, April 18 through April 24 is Screen-Free Week, a time when families shutter the boob tube and make a pledge to do real things in the real world instead.

There’s plenty of ideas for getting your family on board for outings, cooking sessions, read-a-thons, craft projects, decorating jams, clean ups, playdates, BIKE RIDES and more. You can even try to get your local schools involved.

Or you can dedicate the week to getting that Transition initiative off the ground, organizing an interest meeting or finally checking out details about that proposed community garden.

Once you’ve been blown away by your good time, you can enter The Association of Waldorf Schools of North America’s contest for the best story on how you and yours spent Screen-Free Week.

Screen-Free means more than TV

Screen-Free week also encourages dumping video games and computer time, which is doable for the younger set but sometimes a bigger challenge for big kids at homework time. Pick your battles, sure, and get that homework done, of course. But why not try Screen-Free Week to the extent you can?

In addition to bringing your family closer together, it also offers a week away from couch potatohood and a chance to lower your energy use—you know, the dirty, belching coal that supplies most of our electricity?

Just unplug your screening devices altogether. Better yet, pack ’em into the closet.

Even I wont be watching movies on my dvd player this week. And I have no plans to hole up in a HOJO’s for the marathon Easter edition of Real Housewives of Bethlehem, either.

–Lindsay Curren,Cross posted from Lindsay’s List

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