It’s National TV Turnoff Week. That means shutting down the boob tube and turning your grandchildren on to… well, almost anything else.
The goal of TV Turnoff Week is simple: Reduce the amount of time kids spend in front of the television. The event's organizers suggest several alternatives to the tube, and many community groups and libraries offer special after-school activities for children as alternatives to television during the week.
While TV Turnoff Week is directed at all ages, it is especially important for grandparents and adult to serve as role models and turn off the TV themselves. To be sure, it will be a test of willpower.
However, it is an important effort, especially for your grandchildren. The American Academy of Pediatrics supports turning off the television, and in fact has maintained for years that every week should be Turnoff Week. The AAP has conducted extensive studies on children and television, concluding that, for some, excessive screen time can have negative effects on children and teens, including increased obesity, poor body image, violent or aggressive behavior, substance use, sexual activity, and decreased school performance.
According to its policy statement, the AAP recommends the following guidelines:
1. Limit children's total entertainment-media time to no more than 1 to 2 hours of quality programming per day.
2. Remove television sets from children's bedrooms.
3. Discourage television viewing for children younger than 2 years and encourage more interactive activities that will promote proper brain development, such as talking, playing, singing, and reading together.
4. Monitor the shows children and adolescents view; most programs should be informational, educational, and nonviolent.
5. View television programs along with children, and discuss the content. Two recent surveys involving a total of nearly 1,500 parents found that fewer than half of parents reported always watching television with their children.
6. Use controversial programming as a stepping-off point to initiate discussions about family values, violence, sex and sexuality, and drugs.
7. Use DVR wisely to show or record high-quality, educational programming for children.
8. Support efforts to establish comprehensive media-education programs in schools.
9. Encourage alternative entertainment for children, including reading, athletics, hobbies, and creative play.
10. Turn off the TV and other computer games 1 to 2 hours before bed time so it does not disrupt a child's ability to fall asleep.
Of course, all this is easier said than done: One AAP study found that fewer than 20 percent of children met guidelines for increasing their walking and limiting their TV time. group of 709 children (ages 7 to 12) from public elementary schools in Iowa and Minnesota were given pedometers to wear for a week. They were also surveyed about their weekday and weekend television habits, which included watching TV and playing video games.
Among those who met both recommendation levels of walking and TV, (12 percent of the boys and 16 percent of the girls), 10 percent of the boys and 20 percent of the girls were overweight. Among boys and girls who met neither guideline, 35 to 40 percent were overweight.
“I wouldn't say those numbers surprised me,” Kelly Laurson, a doctoral candidate in the department of kinesiology at Iowa State University, told the Los Angeles Times. “But it reflects how important it is for children to meet these physical-activity and screen-time cut points.”
Is your grandchildren's TV always on? Get some insight here »
Screen-Free Week (formerly TV Turnoff Week and Digital Detox Week) is an annual event where children, families, schools and communities are encouraged to turn off screens and "turn on life". Instead of relying on television programming for entertainment, participants read, daydream, explore, enjoy nature, and spend time with family and friends. Over 300 million people have taken part in the turnoff, with millions participating each year.
In 2010, Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood (CCFC) became the home of Screen-Free Week at the request of the Board of the Center for SCREEN-TIME Awareness (CSTA), which ran the initiative since 1994 (first as TV-Free America). CCFC launched a new website and developed a new Organizer's Kit, fact sheets, and other materials for Screen-Free Week 2011 and beyond. The Screen-Free Week Organizer's Kit is available as a free download.
In 1994, the week was first championed by TV-Free America, and promoted by Adbusters magazine and other organizations. TV-Free America then became Center for SCREEN-TIME Awareness. CSTA was an organization that encouraged all people to use electronic screen media responsibly and then have more time for a healthy life and more community participation. It was a grassroots alliance of many different organizations, with participation in over 70 nations around the world. Screen Free week happens in Canada.
CCFC changed the name of TV-Turnoff to Screen-Free Week in 2010, since entertainment media (and advertising) are increasingly delivered through a variety of screens (computers, hand-held devices, etc.), and not just traditional television commercials. In 2008 Adbusters changed the name of TV Turnoff Week to Digital Detox Week to reflect the growing predominance of computers and other digital devices.
- 2018: April 30 – May 6
- 2019: April 29 – May 5
Members and supporters
Important members of the network include Adbusters in Canada and White Dot in the UK (named after the small white dot that would briefly appear when turning off older TV sets, especially black-and-white ones). A related organization, Asesores TV La Familia Internacional, works in many countries with large Spanish-speaking populations. In France, Casseurs de pub is part of the event. In Brazil, Instituto Alana promotes the Semana sem telas.
More than seventy other organizations, such as the American Heart Association, the American Medical Association, Big Brothers Big Sisters of America and the YMCA, support the movement in the US. In 2004, a major partnership was created with the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Anti-TV "guerrillas" use a small device known as TV-B-Gone to remotely turn off television sets within 14 metres (46 ft) in an attempt to reduce "ambient TV" in public spaces.
- Postman, Neil (1985). Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business. USA: Penguin. ISBN 0-670-80454-1.
- Postman, Neil (1994). The Disappearance of Childhood. London: Vintage. ISBN 0-679-75166-1.
- Jean Lotus; Burke, David (1998). Get a Life!. Bloomsbury Publishing PLC. ISBN 0-7475-3689-9.
- Cheryl Pawlowski (2000). Glued to the tube: the threat of television addiction to today's society. Naperville, Ill: Sourcebooks. ISBN 1-57071-459-2.
- Marie McClendon (2001). Alternatives to TV Handbook. Whole Human Beans Co. ISBN 0-9712524-0-8.
- Winn, Marie (2002). The plug-in drug: television, computers, and family life. New York: Penguin Books. ISBN 0-14-200108-2.
- Ellen Currey-Wilson (2007). The Big Turnoff: Confessions of a TV-Addicted Mom Trying to Raise a TV-Free Kid. Chapel Hill, NC: Algonquin Books. ISBN 1-56512-539-8.
- "Turning Off the TV" article at The Washington Post. April 24, 2006. Accessed December 23, 2008.