Kicking the television habit

Think about it

April 18, 1999

A recent study by the Institute for Academic Excellence in Madison, Wis., reveals that the average high school student spends about as much time reading as the average kindergartner, and that students in general read only about 7.1 minutes a day. By comparison, the amount of time the average child aged 2 to 11 spends watching TV each week is about 20 hours!

Statistics such as these are why TV-Free America (TVFA) designated April 22-28 as National TV-Turnoff Week. This event is part of a broad effort to explore new ways for your family to share time and activities together. If you would like to join in, here are some tips adapted from, "Unplugging the Plug-in Drug" by Warie Winn:

How to do it

* For toddlers, all that's usually needed is a statement that there will be no TV watching this week, and then redirect their attention.

* For children ages 6 to 12, confidently present the idea giving reasons why you think it is worthwhile. (For suggestions, contact TV-Free America at 202-887-0436, or visit its website,

* Try to enlist support from your child's school as well as friends and neighbors who are willing to participate.

* Make the experience of turning the TV off eventful with a fun and unique ceremony. For example, cover the screen with a child's artwork to be removed at the week's end.

* Plan a party to reward yourselves for a successful TV-free week.

What to do

Here are suggestions of what to do while the TV is off.

* Put together a large puzzle.

* Play board games.

* Do oragami paper folding.

* Plan a scavenger hunt.

* Make a time capsule. Seal objects and notes meaningful to your family in a box, and bury it in the back yard (make a map to retrieve it in the future).

* Call a cousin. Share your plans and exchange ideas.

* Go to the library during the hours you would normally watch TV.

For other alternative activities, see "365 TV-Free Activities You Can Do With Your Child," by Steve J. Bennett and Ruth I. Loetterle. -- Susan Rapp, Village Reading Center

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