Ellen Currey-Wilson doesn’t miss the mind-numbing hours spent gazing at her television set. She doesn’t miss the dumbed-down language or random violence, and she certainly doesn’t miss the Viagra ads.
“I’m really happy we’re missing a lot of that,” says Currey-Wilson, the Portland, Ore.-based author of “The Big Turnoff: Confessions of a TV-Addicted Mom Trying to Raise a TV-Free Kid.”
“There’s a lot that I’m thrilled about that (my son) is missing, and we can creatively decide to keep up with whatever part of pop culture that we want.”
Currey-Wilson will be at Village Books Thursday as part of TV-Turnoff Week to promote her book, which came out last Friday. While pregnant with her son, Casey, now 11, she decided to break her prime-time habit. She and her family now limit their TV time to two hours a week, finding books, radio, games and other family activities to keep them entertained and connected.
“I have nothing against TV used sparingly,” she says. “When it’s supplanting all these worthwhile activities is when it’s a problem.”
In the Northwest, the TV addiction is slightly easier to break, she says, as many families take every chance to go into the outdoors. In the nation as a whole, however, people are spending more and more time in front of TVs and computers, and kids are particularly vulnerable.
“The TV is now on for eight hours a day, according to Nielsen (Media Research). We now have more TV sets than people in most households,” she says. “I don’t like the trend at all toward our younger viewers. The fact that we’re actually marketing to babies, to me that’s the most disturbing.”
Robert Kesten, executive director of the Center for Screen-Time Awareness in Washington, D.C., agrees that people in the Northwest, from San Francisco up, tend to be more aware of what they are watching. For the TV-addicted, the center created TV-Turnoff Week 13 years ago, and this year he expect about 20 million people to participate worldwide. He hopes people will feel the benefits of turning away from their computers, TVs and video games — even if only for a week.
“I think that the rewards for re-engaging family, friends and community are priceless,” he says. “Getting back time is priceless. Getting back who you are, exploring your creativity and imagination, how do you even begin to quantify that?”
For Currey-Wilson, cutting down on TV time allowed her to be more productive and strengthened the connections between her and her husband and her mother. Most importantly, it forced her to be creative and constantly involved with her son’s growth and development.
“I believe it takes a village to raise a child, but people forget it’s a village of people not screens.”