I was stunned recently when Alt.D1 turned on my laptop, clicked on CBeebies and set her favourite programme going! She’s been pressing the pause button for a while, but whoah, that took it to new extremes… parental controls here we come!
They needn’t have worried though. We had tonnes of stuff to do, and the furniture just points at each other. Most people don’t notice the lack of big black box in the corner. Maybe they think we have a TV room somewhere else in the
Whilst our friends and family looked on in mild amusement, either waiting for us to cave in or cheering us on from the sidelines, the TV Licensing Authority were a different kettle of fish. When I said earlier that I cancelled the TV Licence, it wasn’t quite that simple. Oh no. The thing is, they really don’t believe you when you click the box on the website that says something along the lines of “I don’t have a TV”. Are you sure? Are you absolutely sure? Uh, yes, thanks, I am sure! I would love one of their inspectors to come round – what are they going to do, look under the bed in case I’ve stashed a 60 inch flatscreen Panasonic Viera?
For those readers not in the UK, I should probably explain about the TV Licence. Here we have the BBC, which is funded by the unique method of a licence fee collected from every household which has a television and uses it to watch live television. I never really had a problem with the licence, and I really appreciate the fact that I can watch TV without any ad breaks, (yes, NO ad breaks at ALL!). Going TV free saves us £145 a year, but that wasn’t really the reason behind it.
Eighteen months on, I’ve just had a letter from the Powers That Be asking me to check whether I might have forgotten that I do in fact have a TV and failed to mention it to them… well I have checked, and no, I still don’t have one!
The sense of incredulous wonder is sometimes amusing when I mention we’re Television Free. The phone company rang me, trying to sell me their TV package. As the agent started her spiel, she asked:
“What sort of things do you like to watch on TV?”
“Oh, I don’t have one…”
“Um… err… what do you do?” The autocue didn’t cover that one, did it?!
Anyway, so we got rid of the TV. No biggie. Not really “turning into hippie types” (well no more than before, anyway!)
But I have been thinking a bit about whether television for kids is necessary at all. In France, they have banned the broadcast of programmes aimed at children under three years of age. The French authorities cite concerns for the children’s development. It’s hard to tell really, but there are now at least three generations of people most of whom have grown up with a television in their home. I’m not sure about stunting their development, but could it be stunting their creativity? On days when Alt.D1 has been allowed unfettered access to the BBC catchup service, the house stays strangely and sadly tidy. While I’ve been putting a crotchety baby Alt.D2 down for a nap, her big sister stays glued to the sofa. It does make me a bit sad.
And yet, I do feel that it’s important that the cultural references do not pass my girls by. A friend told me once she had met a lady at a dinner party who didn’t know who Winnie-the-Pooh was. We couldn’t quite work out how a person could get to their mid twenties and not know at least one incarnation of AA Milne’s tubby little bear. Even without a television, Alt.D1 knew who Iggle Piggle was as a child at nursery had a cuddly one… there’s no escaping, even if we want to. I remember fondly my own childhood television favourites, some of which can be found in online archives and most of which look really dated and low-tech now! (Fingermouse, anyone?). It is a part of growing up, so Alt.Father and I are not planning to take that away from our children.
We do tend to surround ourselves with technology, though, if not television in the Alt.House. I know that in the early days of Alt.D2, I would settle on the sofa to feed the baby, and reach for the laptop, balancing it on one end of the sofa and catching up with friends on Facebook. My mum looked at me once, and commented that she had never even read books when feeding us as babies; she thought she had to talk to us all the time. Well there’s no argument that it helped me to become a good talker… I wonder if my babies will be good emailers in their turn?
I recently took a break from Facebook, deactivating my account for a week so I could concentrate on preparing for a family event. It was an odd sensation, something definitely missing. Friends rang me, some texted “What’s wrong, hope you’re ok?”. Strangely, I just felt relieved. I have since gone back online, but I find I’m spending less time there, definitely for the good.
Which brings me to share with you the excellent blog of Rachel at Hands Free Mama. I read her blog and felt ashamed of myself for sometimes shushing my children as I checked my online messages. We live in a communication age these days, but maybe we could all just do with communicating a bit more with the people who are close to us. And maybe that should be by talking to them!
It may be incongruous, but Ctrl.Alt.Parent is now on Twitter. Follow me by searching for Alt Mother or #ctrlaltparent