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Observing TV Turnoff Week - 2003-04-25

Ever since it was invented, this box that you’re watching - your televison set - has fascinated, even mesmerized people all over the world. But there are those who say it’s influence has far exceeded its real value, especially for children. Carol pearson—on a movement that aims to make kids turn off tv and turn on life.

American children, on average, spend more time in front of a television set than they spend in school. But now there is a movement to get more of them to do this: turn off the TV. The last full week of April has been designated TV Turnoff Week by an organization called the TV Turnoff Network.

Frank Vespe, who heads TV Turnoff Network, says the goal is to call attention to how much time people spend in front of the TV set.

“What people realize through TV turnoff week isn’t so much what they feel about TV, but more how they feel about their time. And what we hear from people very often is that they had no idea how much time they were giving to the TV. And just the sudden realization that they are giving hours and hours to the TV set and the realization there are so many other things they could be doing like exercising, spending time with family and friends and all sorts of other things, for many people becomes the thing that makes them want to change their behaviors.”

Several prominent American physicians who endorse the movement say when children spend more time playing or reading instead of sitting in front of the television, they are more physically fit, their social adjustment is better and they are more interested in the world around them.

Teachers, like Greg McCracken, say they see a huge difference between children who watch little or no television and those who watch a lot.

“The ones who watch TV commonly have a harder time focusing on their work, they have a harder time concentrating in group settings. The children who don’t watch a lot of TV are more independent. They are more self-motivated, and they just have an easier time with the work.

So what are the children doing with their time, if they are not watching TV?

“I’ve been walking my neighborhood dogs. It’s actually fun.”

“I’d rather do something active instead of sit down and watch TV.”

“I’ve been reading a lot more than I would have been reading.”

“It’s more fun to play with friends than to watch TV.”

Ironically, none of the children interviewed for this report said they missed watching television, at least for this week. But could they do it for life?


The TV Turnoff Network estimates 7 million Americans participated this week.

“We’ve got a long way to go before we get where we want to be, but I think real progress is being made.”

Frank Vespe has heard from people in Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, South Korea, Britain, Germany, India and Italy who are participating.

And a footnote: one little girl who participated in TV Turn Off Week said she was forced to play with her brother because there wasn’t anything else to do.