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Mass Media: Tune In or Tune Out?
By Susan Hines-Brigger


A Refreshing Idea
To Turn It Off or Not
For Teens: Movie Night
For Kids: Log Your Time

A few weeks ago I made a suggestion that stopped my two oldest kids in their tracks. Yes, I actually had the nerve to suggest that our family should consider taking part in Turnoff Week, which takes place April 21-27 this year. The concept is that for one week we unplug ourselves from all the electronic media in our lives.

I barely got the words out before the protests began. “But, Mom...,” Maddie and Alex whined in unison. Two-year-old Riley refrained, but I suspect that, if she had understood I was proposing a week without Dora the Explorer, she would have quickly joined forces with her siblings.

Like it or not, electronic media play a huge role in our kids’ lives—and ours. And as any parent knows, that can be both a blessing and a curse.


A Refreshing Idea

Turnoff Week is the work of the Center for Screen-time Awareness (CSTA), formerly TV-Turnoff Network. According to its Web site (, it is “an international nonprofit organization that provides tools for people to live healthier lives in functional families in vibrant communities by taking control of the electronic media in their lives and not allowing it to control them.”

So the thought of tuning out for an entire week seemed rather appealing— but challenging—to me. And it got me thinking. While unplugging the TVs in our house for a week was a good idea, what about the other 51 weeks of the year? And what about those things that can’t be turned off? For instance, my husband’s job requires him to be on call 24 hours a day, both by phone and by e-mail. And my job requires that I stay in touch with the news via the Internet, newspapers and magazines. So what’s a family to do?

Yes, Turnoff Week will serve as a wonderful reminder to my husband, Mark, and me that, while every once in a while we may be able to take a week off from today’s media, most of the time we have to face it head-on. So we better be ready by tuning in to what our kids are interested in watching, listening to, reading, etc.

Since 1994, more than 50 million people have participated in Turnoff Week. If your family decides to take part this year, here are some ideas to help make the most of your week, and also help make you more media-aware the rest of the year:

Make a list. Since your family will have lots of free time if you participate in Turnoff Week, sit down and make a list of things that your family can do instead, such as play board games, take a walk or go to the park.

Sit down with your kids. Ask them what their favorite TV shows, books and songs are and why. Let them lead the discussion.

Watch TV together. Pick out shows and movies that you think your family will enjoy watching together, and that display messages and values to which you would like your children to be exposed. Watch them as a family and afterward talk about what you thought of them.

Be proactive. If there is a show, movie or book that your child wants to read or see, check it out. You can’t make an informed decision otherwise. And if there’s something you don’t want your child to see, explain why. (You can read movie reviews at the Web site of the U.S. bishops’ Film and Broadcasting Office——or at

Recap your week. At the end of Turnoff Week, sit down and talk about the experience. Is it something you would take part in again? What did you learn?


Invite a few friends over for a movie marathon. Ask them to bring their favorite movie. After watching each person’s film, ask what he or she likes so much about the film. Discuss the things that you did or didn’t like. Were there things you thought were unnecessary in the film, such as bad language or violence? You can make this an all-day or an evening event depending on how many movies you’re up for watching or how late you want to stay up. If you can’t fit them all in one day or night, schedule subsequent get-togethers, such as devoting one night a week to each person’s picks.

You might also try doing this with books or games that you and your friends enjoy.

You may not think you spend a lot of time watching TV, but the exact amount of time may surprise you. So why not find out? For one week, keep track of how much time you spend in front of the television set. Then, at the end of the week, come up with alternative ideas for what you could do with that time. For example, if you watch two hours of television every day, convert them into a half hour of exercise, a half hour of reading and an hour of playing a board game. Don’t those three things seem more productive than sitting on the couch doing nothing?


Do you have ideas or suggestions for topics you'd like to see addressed in this column? If so, send them to me at “Faith-filled Family,” 28 W. Liberty Street, Cincinnati, OH 45202-6498, or e-mail them to

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