Turn Off TV

Take Charge of the TV

American children watch nearly three hours of television every day, spending more time in front of the television each year than they do in school! These children are growing up hooked on TV, with poor reading skills and little interest in books. This year children will spend four times as many hours watching television as they will spend reading for pleasure. Too much TV viewing has been clearly connected to lower academic scores.

Fortunately, there is something you can do. By limiting or eliminating TV time, you can give children a real reading boost. Parents can start with a few basic rules: no TV on weeknights, no TV before school, and no TV in a child’s bedroom. Day care providers can have their own rules when it comes to TV, for example, limiting TV to 1/2 hour per day, or picking one day a week to be video day and letting the children take turns picking out a video or bringing one from home to watch on that day. During the rest of the week, the TV could have a poster hanging in front of it during business hours.

Parents and providers can also help by reading to children daily and keeping as many books as possible on hand and within easy reach of all children. A weekly trip to the library is a habit to enjoy and many libraries offer story-time classes free of charge.

Quick, Fun Project for TV-Turnoff Week

Turning off the television for one week may just be the most creative week the children ever had. First, you’ll need a piece of cardboard, tag board or just plain paper about the size of the front of your television. Next, brainstorm with the children about what they could do instead of watching TV. Include some indoor and outdoor options. Here are examples to get you started:

take a walk ¦ color or paint a picture ¦ draw on the driveway with sidewalk chalk ¦ build a fort with pillows and blankets ¦ “paint” the outside of the house with buckets of water and large paint brushes ¦ read a book ¦ play in a sandbox or on a swing set ¦ make an indoor obstacle course where the children skip around a chair, jump over a pillow, etc. ¦ have a cooking project where the children help prepare an easy snack or meal ¦ sing some songs ¦ make a collage from favorite magazine pictures ¦ dance to music ¦ play a board game ¦ take an outing to the park or the library

The children will come up with many more ideas when given a little prompting.

When all the suggestions have been listed, draw an outline of the front of your TV on cardboard or paper. Now let the children help fill in the “screen” with all the wonderful activities they will do. When this is complete, tape the picture to the front of the TV where it will remain for the whole week.

Did you know…

  • The proportion of overweight children has doubled since 1980, in part due to sedentary leisure time activities such as watching TV.
  • Forty percent (40%) of Americans always or often watch television while eating dinner.
  • Ten or more hours of TV watching per week has been shown to negatively affect academic achievement.
  • Seventy percent (70%) of day care centers use TV during a typical day. -During four hours of Saturday morning cartoons, 202 “junkfood” ads are aired.
  • The CARDIA Study on TV viewing and cardiovascular risk factors in young adults found associations of self reported heavy TV viewing with obesity, physical inactivity, negative psychological characteristics and smoking.
  • In the U.S., six million videos are rented daily while three million items are checked out of the public library.


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