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Monday, April 20, 2009

TV Turnoff Week: Turn off the TV. Turn on Life.

Today, April 20th, marks the kick-off of National TV Turnoff Week. Parents are encouraged to use this upcoming week as a seven-day hiatus from television and video games for their family. Instead, families are encouraged to spend time doing activities together.
TV Turnoff Week is supported by the AAP and The Center for Screen-time Awareness. The most recent statistics show that the average American child spends over 1000 hours a year watching TV and playing video games. To put that in perspective, they only spend 900 hours a year in school. Television, video games, computers and now cell phones are becoming an increasing part of everyday life for the American child. Although there may be many advantages of living in such a technological era, there are well-documented detriments as well.
America is quickly becoming a nation of overweight individuals, and obesity is highly correlated with increased screen-time. Studies have shown that children who spend 4-6 hours of screen-time a day have a higher risk of being obese. All this time spent in front of screens is at the expense of less time spent playing sports, doing outdoor activities, reading and having family time.
Implementing a TV turnoff week in your home can be challenging. Habits are hard to break. Having a plan will help to keep children occupied and can lead to this week being a time of family bonding instead of boredom. Encourage to children to play outside or go for bike rides in the afternoon. Arrange play-dates after school. Foster some family competition by scheduling a family game night. Involve children in dinner by having a family cookout. Children can participates in creating a menu or help with cooking.
You can also use this week to start a project, such as planting a vegetable or herb garden. Children can help in choosing what vegetables to grow and planting them. They can also engage in some artistic activities by making little signs to label the garden. A trip to the library can also be fun. Most libraries will issue children their own library cards. Allow your children to take out a few books, some to read on their own and then some to read together at night before bed. Even for children who can read, reading more difficult stories together can be fun. Ask the librarian for suggestions or try choosing a children's adventure novel and then read a chapter aloud a night.
These are just a few ideas of ways to pass seven days without a television. As the TV Turnoff posters say, "Turn off TV. Turn on life." For more ideas or listings of activities in your area check out The Center For Screen-time Awareness's website.