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.
Turnoff Week is the work of the Center for Screen-time Awareness (CSTA), formerly
TV-Turnoff Network. According to its Web site (www.screentime.org),
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—www.usccb.org/movies—or
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?