Purpose: To re-think the role of television, why we use it and how and what for. Assess its impact on students, teachers, parents, children,individuals, etc.
How: Simply switch off or unplug your TV set for seven days and engage in a wide range off substitute activities.
Who: Individuals, children, families, students, groups, etc.
Where: In your homes, schools, libraries, businesses, congregations, etc.
TV-Free America is a national nonprofit organization that was founded in 1994 to raise awareness about the harmful effects of excessive television-watching and encourage Americans to reduce the amount of television that they watch--and replace TV time with activities that lead to more literate, productive lives and engaged citizenship.
National TV-Turnoff Week is the first nationwide effort which targets the medium of television and asks that people reassess the role TV plays in their daily lives as entertainer, pacifier, babysitter, time filler and background noise.
Television is generally a passive "non-activity" which often detracts from more healthy, interpersonal, productive, rewarding and community-oriented activities.
National TV-Turnoff Week is about having more fun and turning "on" your life. It's an opportunity to rediscover the wide range of activities that exist when one unplugs from the sedentary, image-based, simplistic and commercial world of television.
1) "Why turn off the television completely? Can we do it for just one day?"
Turning off the television for seven full days helps participants realize that life without television is not torture and may actually be more fun. A multi-day TV "fast" allows sufficient time for the development of habits likely to be more productive and rewarding. A one day turnoff provides too little challenge.
2) "Is all TV bad? What about the Discovery Channel or PBS?"
All TV is passive, sedentary and non-experiential. Most viewers tend to watch show after show--not individual programs. Instead of watching a documentary about birds, go out (with binoculars if you have them) and see how many real birds you can identify in your neighborhood. The purpose of National TV-Turnoff Week is to leave behind judgements about the quality of television and focus instead on creating, discovering, building, participating and doing.
3) "What about media literacy and teaching critical viewing skills?"
By going without television for a week, people will learn a great deal about their television habits and will likely be more critical viewers if and when they decide to return to the tube. A TV "fast" is a path to media literacy.
4) "I can't give up my programs! Don't interfere in my home!"
Remember that a TV-Turnoff is voluntary and meant to be fun.
It's intended to build family and community spirit. Coordinate your turnoff in a way that does not alienate or offend parents--they already have their hands full! Send a letter to parents that asks for the family's participation in the turnoff. Indicate the support of the principal, the teachers, PTA or other groups that you have. Parents are more likely to sign on if they know that school professionals support the project.
5) "Do we have to plan an activity every night?"
Some organizers feel providing an activity every night doesn't mimic real life and allows for a big letdown after the turnoff, so some people plan just a few. Plan activities that you might consider doing the following week. In-school activities are a possibility also, and most organizers agree it is good to have at least one family activity during the turnoff.
6) "What about the name TV-Free America? Are you advocating the complete eradication of television?"
TV-Free America encourages Americans to watch less television and replace TV time with activities that lead to more productive and rewarding lives. A TV-Turnoff is an effective way to help break the television habit. While it may be unrealistic to think participants will never watch television again (although a few won't), many will regard the medium in a much different way henceforward.
7) "How can we best appeal to teenagers?"
Make the turnoff fun and provocative. Copy and distribute articles and essays about the environmental and social issues surrounding television and have had students debate the opposing views. Some teachers have awarded extra credits to participating students who keep a journal and write an essay about their week without television. Past TV-Turnoff organizers have asked local businesses (theaters, skating rinks, miniature golf courses, bowling alleys, etc.) to offer discounts to students, families and individuals who show a signed TV-Turnoff "Pledge Card."
8) "I need some peace and quiet when I come home. The television occupies the kids while I fix dinner."
Invite the children to help with simple tasks or have them talk with you while you prepare dinner. Developing a few special (and regular) pre-dinner activities and habits for children is a very worthwhile investment. Some parents also find playing with kids for just a few minutes helps relax the kids as well as themselves.
9) "Our neighborhood is unsafe. Better that my kids sit in front of the television at home than risk harm outside."
There are many indoor activities that are fun, productive and TV-free (see list). Work with neighbors or a local community center to develop indoor and outdoor activities for participating families. Point out that neighborhood improvement will never occur as long as residents merely retreat to the fictional, vicarious world of television.
10) "I can't afford the cost of these "substitute" activities!"
There are many free and simple activities (see enclosed lists) sponsored by libraries, environmental groups, museums, universities, etc. Local newspapers, radio stations and community organizations will have listings of free, public events. Outdoor recreation is an activity that is generally free--as well as healthy!
For More Information (including the complete organizers kit) link over to the TV Turnoff Network Home Page