Most parents don’t need scientific studies to tell them what they already know instinctively about television: It promotes violence, contributes to obesity, interferes with school work and can cause some nasty family fights.
Still, Nielsen Media Research reports, the average American youth watches 1,023 hours of television per year—vs. 900 hours spent in school.
What’s a parent to do? TV Tune Out Week, hosted by the Winnetka Alliance for Early Childhood, is one answer. This year’s TV Tune Out Week begins with a kick-off event on March 5, and concludes with a puppet show on March 11. The national TV Turnoff Week, sponsored by TV Turnoff Network, is slated for April 24-30. Rather than align itself with the national event that also started in 1995, the Winnetka Alliance chose March dates to keep its event in the winter, when a lot of families are looking for things to do.
The Alliance promotes its TV Tune Out Week in conjunction with schools, libraries and community organizations in Winnetka, Northfield and Kenilworth.
The Alliance publishes a 52-page guide that lists activities—including arts and crafts, community service events, speakers and reduced admission to area attractions—that give families an incentive to leave the television off for the week.
Blakely Bundy, executive director of the Winnetka Alliance for Early Childhood, says the local TV Tune Out Week was launched in response to the violent play parents and teachers witnessed when kids imitated what they saw on television.
"The Power Rangers pushed us over the edge," Bundy says.
"We’re not anti-TV," says Libby Joyce of Winnetka, a mother of four whose family has participated in TV Tune Out Week activities since the beginning. "The point is to make you think about it so you don’t just turn on the TV automatically, so it’s more intentional rather than just reactionary."
When Joyce’s oldest son, now 24, was in grade school, she instituted a "No TV during the week rule" year-round in response to the constant conflicts TV was causing. She gave each child a video tape and told them they could record whatever program they wanted during the week and watch it on the weekend.
Soon, Joyce says, her children pretty much gave up television altogether.
"It was really painless, because I gave them the control," Joyce says. "What I don’t understand is why other people don’t use my system, because it’s worked really well."
For more information on TV Tune Out Week, call (847) 441-9001 or visit www.winnetkaalliance.org.
Thomas Wilmes, Medill News Service