It is a challenge that would send shivers down most children's spines.
Could they go a whole month without watching TV, surfing the internet or playing video games?
Almost unthinkably, this means no Ben 10 or Hannah Montana on the box, no chatting online on Bebo and no more Super Mario on the Wii.
A brave group of youngsters from Colchester Karate Academy in Essex decided to take up the challenge. The children, who even had to switch off their mobile phones, each kept a diary of their experience.
So how did they get on? And how did their mums and dads cope?
BETH LAWRENCE-SKITCH, 1: DVD FOR MY BIRTHDAY BUT I CAN'T WATCH IT!
I don't think it's going to be that bad without TV. Daddy took me to the park today, and after that I helped my mum make dinner.
Oh dear, I'm bored. I told mum so she took me on a long walk through the woods with the dog. She said if I was desperate for something to do I could tidy my room. I played with my brothers Quinn and Hugh instead.
I had to go shopping with mum today. Afterwards I went to the park and played a game with my brothers. We were adventurers and played a game with brothers. We were adventurers and had to watch out for baddies.
I went to granny's today. I didn't feel very well and I wanted to cuddle up on the sofa with a film but I couldn't. Mum read me a story instead which was really nice. I miss family film night.
I helped my mum tidy up today. It was a bit boring but then I went to gymnastics and I love gymnastics! I've been so busy I haven't even thought about TV or video games.
I didn't do much this morning. It would be nice to watch telly but mum says I should stick with the challenge as I'm doing so well. We went to granny's house and then the park.
19 I've had a boring day. I had to go shopping with mum and then I had to tidy my room. Wish I could have played on my DS! Oh well, it's my birthday in a few days' time!
I went to granny's and I built a den with my brothers out of grandpa's wood. It was really cool. Mum gave me some biscuits and drinks and I had them in the den.
Today was my birthday and my friends came over to play and we had cakes. I got a DVD and some games for my DS but I'm not allowed to watch them or play them! I really wanted to watch the film. I can't wait for the challenge to be over.
I went to granny's and I played Jenga with everyone. I won twice!
I've been practising on the piano today. I'm getting really good. I went to granny's and played at the park. The challenge is over at last and I'm going to play the game I got for my birthday!
Mum Zoe Says: "I'm very pleased that they have all done this challenge because it's been good for them to find other things to entertain themselves.
"When it was over the children were very keen to get back on their games, but now things have settled they still want to go to the park more than they used to.
"I hope they continue to remember the fun they've had once the winter is over and keep getting the extra fresh air - they sleep much better for it!"
ROWAN SCOTT, 10: IT WILL BE HORRIBLE
No TV or electronic games for a month! It'll be horrible! We played Roulette and snakes and ladders. I'd get bored if I played them every day!
It's rainin g, and I'm bored. Me and my brothers got our LEGO from the garage. I wish I could go online to look for spare pieces.
We drove to Southend to visit some of my stepmum's friends. I missed my DS on the long car journey.
Went to the library. I haven't done so much reading for ages. I think I'll try to read more, even when I go back to surfing the net and playing video games.
Me and my brothers went to stay with my dad. I normally play on the internet but we played Monopoly and Cranium instead.
We made up our own game of Harry Potter and made our own wands. My mum thought it was funny as we're normally in my room playing Harry Potter on the computer!
We went to the forest. I made some stickbread by putting dough on a stick and cooking it over a fire.
Went shopping and bought a pumpkin, then carved it into a face.
Stayed at Colchester Zoo until closing. I can't believe it's been a month since I've watched TV or been on the internet. It's been more fun than I expected. Need to find my DS, I forgot where I put it!
STEP MUM LANDI FOURIE SAYS:
"They were dreading it, but they found it easier than they'd expected. I found my children were much calmer and easier to put to bed at night."
HAMISH LUCAS, 9: ONLY A FEW HOURS IN... AND I'M BORED
It's only been a few hours and I'm bored! It was strange, I didn't know what to do, but I started reading a book called Zero End and I really got into it.
Went to Cubs and all my friends were talking about what they saw on TV yesterday. When I told them I was going without TV or video games for a month they thought I was crazy.
I think mum and dad are getting fed up with me and my sister Imogen complaining that we're bored! Went to a Connect afternoon where we had to build something out of Meccano. I built a helicopter and it was so good they took a picture of it to put on the website.
I've been practising my karate moves as I have a grading day as I have a grading on Saturday.
I did really well in karate and went up a grade!
I wanted to play on the Wii but cooked a banana cake instead.
Went out cycling with dad then went shopping with mum and bought a present for dad. We decorated a T-shirt - it was fun.
Dad says the games I play on the Wii are better in real life, so he took me skateboarding. It was fun. We're tenpin bowling tomorrow.
Me and Imogen made our costumes for a Halloween party. I'm going as death and Imogen made a vulture costume. My dad told me today is the last day without TV and I didn't even remember. It's been fun going without it.
Dad Hamish Says: "Apart from the first day after the challenge finished, when Hamish and Imogen spent all day playing computer games and watching TV, they aren't that bothered about it any more. I'd recommend this to every parent."
I haven't owned a television in over 7 years. I haven't lived in a house with a set in over 5 years. I spend my days largely television-free, and I actually like it.
This isn't to say that I don't watch some television shows over the internet. I have to get my Heroes fix somehow. But as someone with an addictive personality, I've found that keeping myself away from the boob tube has kept me happier and healthier.
While saving money on a cable bill is a good impetus for some people to cut the cable, I already pay $30 a month for internet, and cable wouldn't cost me that much more; a mere $5.
For me, it's not about the money; at least, not directly. It is about the following:
1. Time not spent watching really stupid crap
I'm the kind of person who can veg in front of the television for hours. I'll come home from work, plop down in front of the TV, and before I know it, it's midnight, and I'm rapidly losing IQ points watching local news — nothing is worse than local television personalities. And that's just with basic television! I shudder to think what would become of me if I had something like HBO. I'd become one with the couch, literally, within a few days.
2. I live by my own schedule
Not having a glowing television beckoning to me allows me the freedom to, say, go on longer walks in the afternoon with my dogs. What's the rush to get back inside? There are no shows that I need to watch. I frequently run into neighbors while strolling around the block who would love to chat, but have to get back to the house before Ghost Whisperer (or whatever) comes on. Sure, you could argue that I could still live by my own schedule if I had a TiVo or other DVR, but the truth is, I'd still be a slave to the shows I recorded. Back when I used to watch TV regularly, I would get so incredibly grumpy if I couldn't make time to see my favorite shows. I don't do that anymore.
3. The joys of radio
I've always liked radio better than television, and I'm happy to live in an area where we have a good public radio station. I enjoy talk radio — news, interviews, stories. In the same way that books allow your imagination to run wild, radio gives you the words and the freedom to create scenes in your mind. I like that, and I appreciate being able to enjoy a medium that doesn't require more than one of my senses at a time. With the radio on, I can listen to the news and cook dinner without taking my eyes from the stove. I've listened to the presidential and vice presidential debates on the radio this year, and find it to be a more than adequate way to take it all in. (Mind you, I did miss all of the Palin-winks and the frighteningly bright-white Biden teeth, but still.)
4. The joys of reading
I used to enjoy falling asleep in front of the television, but since I don't have one, I like to read in bed until I'm sleepy. Usually, I don't get more than a half hour of reading in before I start to doze off, but I can get through one book a month that way.
5. The joys of the internet
I love the internet — it's where I get the majority of my news, entertainment, and extracurricular writing. I can watch movies online through Netflix or Hulu, or on my DVD player in my laptop. I've never been one to tout the big screen experience — to me, seeing a movie on a small screen is just as rewarding as seeing it at the theater. However, watching a movie on my laptop while lounging in bed is not nearly as comfy as watching one on a television from my couch. The result is that while I do catch some TV shows, I watch many fewer than I actually would if I had a TV set up in my living room.
6. No remote controls
I used to get frustrated with my mother's refusal to accept new technology, but I have to admit that the multitude of remote controls in your average living room is baffling to me. Every time I watch a movie at my sister's house, setting up the television, DVD player, and sound system ends up feeling as complicated as performing a live concert. Remote controls are passed around the room like batons as we try to get the picture, balance, and volume JUST right. And one of the remotes is ALWAYS missing. In my house, I don't have a single remote control. Hey, it's hard enough to find my shoes and keys in the morning.
I never know what people are talking about when they make inside jokes featuring plotlines from The Office or South Park. I don't watch these shows online because they don't interest me, but if I had a TV, I probably would watch them. So then I would know what people were talking about. But then again, I'd probably never leave the house.
I eventually have to explain why I never have a grasp of pop culture, and I hate sounding like one of those self-righteous jerks who never watches TV. I don't avoid TV to be more high-falutin' than other people — it's just better for me, overall, if I don't.
I can't invite people over to watch TV; this is a big season for debate parties, and I can't host one, because no one wants to sit around the radio with me and imagine how angry John McCain looks. Also, watching television or a movie is a nice way to end a date, but I have to skip that and go straight to the making-out part. Awk-ward.
I almost never see commercials. And commercials are a lot smarter than they used to be. The internet-TV commercials are exceptionally tame.
A picture paints a thousand words. Sometimes, descriptions of events simply can't tell the story the way footage of a suicide bombing or a miraculous rescue after a natural disaster can.
Do Wise Bread readers watch TV? Do you think it's worthwhile for you and your family?
Tagged: Frugal Living, Lifestyle, Technology, hobbies, Internet, movies, netflix, reading, television, time consuming, tv, weight loss
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