Saturday, April 27, 2013

Still Life With Robin: Turn Off the Screen Week

Photo by Hana Kirana (Wikimedia Commons)

by Peggy Robin

Monday is the start of Turn Off the Screen Week. In my younger days when there were far fewer screens to turn off, this 7-day pledge of electronic disengagement was known as Turn Off the TV Week. Now the drive is against passive viewing in any form, and so participating families are asked to turn off not just the TV for a week, but also the computer, their game systems, iPads, and all other forms of pixel-based media. Presumably, with all the electronics switched off, the members of the family will have a week to go on long hikes together in the woods, and play softball and touch football and other sports face to face, and enjoy a host of other wholesome activities that take place in actual reality, as opposed to the virtual sort.

Sounds great, doesn't it? My point in bringing this up, however, is to say it's not as good as it sounds. It seems to me, in actual reality, that if you need a week of disciplined abstention from screens to reconnect with the people you love, perhaps you have a deeper problem than can be fixed by a gimmicky seven-day technology strike.

For most well-functioning families (that is, assuming there are some) I would think that giving up a week's worth of access to TV, iPads, Netflix movies, and I presume, reading books on a Kindle, is an overreaction. Look at it this way: If you continually overindulge in food, the cure is not to starve yourself for a week, and then go back to overeating. The key is to adopt a healthy, varied, moderate diet, using up-to-date knowledge of nutrition and physiology and related sciences, to make rational, healthful choices.  It's the same for our use of technology.  If you and your family members are already using your electronic devices responsibly, bringing you information and entertainment when you want it, and enhancing your safety by keeping you connected in an emergency, there's no reason to disconnect yourself for a week.

On the other hand, if someone in your family is playing World of Warcraft 80 hours a week, you've got trouble that Turn Off the Screen Week is not going to fix.

So, for all those who are not inclined to deprive themselves of access to a week's worth of screen-delivered journalism, artistic productions and yes, fun stuff, I do have a suggestion: A helpful and interesting source of excellent recommendations can be found on the website TV Worth Watching,, compiled by critic, academic, and NPR commentator David Bianculli, whose selections I have consistently enjoyed -- and I hope you will, too. Even if it's during Turn Off the Screen Week.


Still Life With Robin is published on the Cleveland Park Listserv,, and All Life Is Local on Saturdays.

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