Turn Off That TV!

To honor Screen Free Week, how can you challenge your class to turn off the TV May 5-11, 2014?

By Ann Whittemore

kids running outside

It’s time to turn off the TV and get reacquainted with your family. My family has been virtually TV-free for nine years and I want every parent and educator to know, that it’s not only possible, it’s wonderful. This article will provide some light information on why TV should be kept to a minimum, as well as some fun ways to get the kids hooked on having TV-free fun. Please add your ideas and tips for encouraging both your students and your family to try a week of screen-free living. 

Why Should I Participate?

As an educator, the reasons to minimize TV viewing are obvious. Kids have more time at home to read, spend time on homework, and exercise. It also allows for more social engagement with the family, which usually means happier kids. The big point of Screen-Free Week is to get kids used to watching less TV and to get parents aware of alternative entertainment sources for their children. After doing some research, I'd recommend TV be viewed no more than one hour per day for children two years and older, and that children under two not watch any TV at all. Older kids who watch four or more hours of TV a day are prone to weight gain, anti-social behavior, and usually have lower reading scores.

Not All TV is Bad

However, TV isn’t all bad. My daughters loved Baby Einstein, Read Between the Lions, and Sesame Street, and I’ve used episodes of Magic School Bus and Reading Rainbow in my classroom. Many shows specifically geared toward child development, cognition, and education are great for little ones. My biggest suggestion for parents is to get rid of cable television; it is costly, contains advertisements that promote unhealthy stereotypes, and offers access to shows your child may not be ready to view. When you take control of shows your kids can watch, you’re providing them with only the best of what TV has to offer. Hulu, Netflix, PBS.org, and several other online resources can give you and your family access to the types of programming you feel is best for your young ones.

How Do I Implement?

So as a teacher, what do you suggest to parents for this week-long experiment? I suggest writing a letter home, stating the goal for the week, as a challenge. “Can your family go 1 week with no TV?” Then, state several reasons why you’re having them take on the TV-free challenge. Finally, give a list of fun activities intended to take the place of down time usually spent in front of the tube. The following is a list of suggestions you can include in your letter. You can even add in the educational benefits of each activity:

  • Play board games
  • Make music
  • Go for a walk
  • Make your own TV show
  • Write a script and film it
  • Arts and crafts
  • Read together
  • Have the kids make dinner (trust me this is a long messy process).
  • Wrestling match
  • Volunteer
  • Give the kids a K’Nex or Lego challenge
  • Tell stories
  • Decorate cookies

From making comics to balloon battles, your classroom families can have a lot of fun. Less TV means a little more time to get good at school work as well as time to get good at having fun together.

Related Resources:

Magnet Crafts

Make fun magnets in all shapes and sizes. This link provides basic instructions on making magnets. Make some for people you know, the alphabet, pets, or anything.

PE Challenge

Just like the screen-free challenge, this lesson outlines reasons and ways to encourage middle schoolers to watch less, and move more.

Get Cooking

I love this site, it provides teachers and parents with plenty of great resources and recipes. Each recipe or cooking activity is free and ready to download. Yum!

Helping Out

I suggested volunteering as a way to spend time away from the TV; so I've included this link to get you started. Parents and teachers alike will find some creative ways to get kids growing to become compassionate community members.