For most people, giving up television for an entire week might seem impossible. However, the Pritchard family of SW Orlando recently decided to take the challenge. Throughout the week they discovered some pros and cons to their TV viewing habits.

Kyle and Laurie Pritchard, along with their children Dylan, Jordan, Jack and Kelsey, ages 6-16, all found varying levels of success. “The challenge affected the girls the most, especially Kelsey who is our main TV viewer,” Laurie says. During the week, Jordan sacrificed her favorite channel, the cooking channel, Dylan and Kyle cut ties with their series on Netflix and Hulu, and Laurie resisted the urge to turn on football. Jack is not much of a TV viewer, and Kelsey had a hard time giving up Nick Jr. and Disney Junior. “During the week we did allow Kelsey to watch a little TV before bed because it really helps her fall asleep more peacefully,” Laurie admits. “The television is almost always on in our house. It’s mostly children’s programming and sports. We are not always watching it though. The girls and I actually find the background noise of TV to be relaxing.”

The Evolution of Television
Kyle and Laurie agree that TV viewing has evolved dramatically since they were kids. Laurie says, “As a child I hardly watched TV. I spent most of my free time playing outside. Watching television was more of a family event. I remember sitting down as a family to watch “Donny and Marie” and “Hee Haw”. We worked our schedules around those shows because there was really only that one opportunity to watch. If you missed it, that was it. You couldn’t view it later like we can now with all the On Demand options. Today, we don’t view watching TV as a family activity, it’s more individualized because we can watch our shows whenever we want.”

Kyle adds, “Given the age difference of the kids, it’s rare that we all watch the same television program although we occasionally sit down and watch a movie together.”
Being without television for a week offered some welcomed changes to the household. Laurie says, “I noticed that when we had the TV off, the kids were outside more and they played together more. The girls and I cooked more meals together that week than we ever had before. Kyle adds, “Usually I’ll take one or both of the girls out to pick oranges or go for a long walk. We definitely did more of that. During the week we also cleaned out the garage. When our oldest two were little we used to have the garage cleared out and we would turn on music and do arts and crafts there. Our TV free week let us revisit that.”

Dylan discovered that he actually liked having the TV off because, “I enjoyed that the house was so much quieter.” Kyle admits the experiment was not always easy. “There were times when I grew tired of trying to think up different engaging activities to keep everyone entertained. In the evenings we just wanted to sit down and relax to a television show.”

Educational Entertainment
The Pritchards say they watch television for more than just the entertainment factor. Laurie, a preschool teacher, sees TV as an educational tool as well. “Kelsey can often take something that happens on one of her shows and apply it to something going on in her life. To me that is more important than just rote memorization. It helps bring things together for her, and is often a good reference for us to use with her. She has also learned several Spanish words from watching Dora the Explorer. I think the majority of the children’s shows on Nick Jr. and Disney Junior are educationally sound but I do believe parents still need to be selective with what shows their kids watch and for how long. To what extent really varies with each child.”

Jordan says she feels inspired by watching cooking shows and has applied skills learned from those shows. Laurie proudly states, “Jordan added two delicious dishes to our Thanksgiving dinner this past year with recipes she learned from television.”

Though the Pritchards are happy that the challenge is behind them, they agree the week helped inspire more family time, something they all enjoy.

Laurie says, “This experiment definitely made me more conscience of how often the TV is on. It really encouraged us to spend more time outside and best of all to spend more quality time together.” Kyle adds, “Getting all six of us together for a set meal or activity isn’t always easy but this challenge reminded us how important it is to occasionally turn the TV off and make the effort.”


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Written by Karen Nimetz