TV-Turnoff Week

Spring has sprung, but are your kids still spending too much time on the couch? It doesn’t have to be that way. Instead, use the following tips to pull your family away from the tube to enjoy more family fun.

1) Look At The Big Picture
Sit down with your family and make a list of what you would rather do than watch TV (computer and video games not allowed.) Julie Morgenstern, author of “Time Management From The Inside Out,” suggests you ask, what are our goals as a family and what activities fit into those goals? Keep your list of activities taped to the TV for when the kids get bored.
The TV-Turnoff Network website,, provides numerous media-free ideas like looking at the stars, roller skating or planting a garden.

2) Keep A TV Journal
For a week, track how much TV your family watches. During that week, “experiment in total focus when you watch a show,” advises Morgenstern. “Only talk during the commercials and after the show talk about what you just watched. Maybe watching together does fit into a family goal, but, if it doesn’t, consider eliminating that show from your day.”

3) Make A Schedule
Before planning a TV schedule, “both parents have to agree to set limits and then they have to be very clear about enforcing the limits,” says Lisa Cohn, co-author of “One Family, Two Family, New Family: Stories and Advice for Stepfamilies.”

Laura Stodden Parker and her husband use a schedule with their 3-year-old daughter. “We have a set time and program we watch from 7-7:30 p.m. By 6:30 p.m., our daughter has finished her dinner and played a little bit. The set TV time provides incentive for her to get her bath finished, hair dried, and pajamas on. If she isn’t ready in time, she misses part of her show.”

4) Don’t Channel Surf
“We have Dish Network and record most of the programs we watch,” says Sarah Solari, a mother of three. “Ultimately that means that we do virtually no channel surfing. I feel better about the time spent because it feels more like an intentional activity and less like time wasted just zoning out.”

5) Use Something Besides TV For Background Noise
Some families turn on the TV in the morning and it ends up staying on most of the day. Instead, “if you need background noise, use music instead of the TV,” says Mary Byers, author of “The Mother Load.” While the music is on, why not grab your kids and do some dancing?

6) Put Off Turning It On For As Long As Possible
Michelle Espy, an at-home mother of four which includes a 3-year-old daughter and 18-month-old twins, says, “The only way for me to get anything done during the day is to let my daughter watch TV or a video while the babies nap. If we put it off until the afternoon, then she watches much less TV. It is just much easier to leave the TV off, than to turn it off once it has been turned on.”

7) Remove TVs From Children’s Bedrooms
Since, on average, children with a TV in their bedroom watch over two hours more per week than other children, keeping TVs out of the kids’ rooms is a good idea.

8) Make It Hard To Be A Couch Potato
Frank Vespe, executive director of TV-Turnoff Network, advises you to “make TV watching harder. Put the TV in a hidden place, like a cabinet, or somewhere out of the main family room (except the kids’ bedrooms, see item 7) so your children will forget it’s there. Also, take the batteries out of the remote control so channel changing must be done manually.”

Whatever room the TV is in, don’t arrange the furniture for watching. Instead “have an area for games or a comfortable chair with good lighting next to a shelf of your child’s books,” advises Stacy DeBroff, author of “The Mom Book Goes To School.”

9) Gamble With Your Children
When Mark Wogulis, a father of two, was 11, his mother bet him and his brother $5 each that they couldn’t cut back to an hour a day of television for a week. “By the end of the week we were surprised at how much we had watched just out of habit,” Wogulis says. “Her offering the payment, rather than ordering us to watch less, made us more receptive to the experience. We continued to watch considerably less TV afterwards.”

10) Cut Back Or Eliminate Cable Access
Fewer choices means fewer reasons to hit the ON button. “Initially, we made the no-cable choice because we are on one income,” says Kathy Barnes, a mother of two. “But, we found other benefits: time for reading, scrapbooking or even talking to each other. We don’t have rabbit ears so we don’t get any channels on our TV. We only watch videos or DVDs. That way we, as parents, can monitor exactly what our children watch and for how long.”

Adds Barnes, “When we are visiting friends or grandparents or staying at hotels with multi-channel TV, our family is dazzled by the options The kids will beg for a normal TV. Briefly, the no-cable decision is reconsidered. That is until a Carl’s Jr. commercial comes on.”

11) Participate in TV-Turnoff Week
Every spring during TV-Turnoff Week (April 23-29 this year) thousands of people give up TV for a week and often find they prefer watching less. Vespe adds, “The first few days can be rough, but, after that initial period, people find freedom. They get more things done and that makes them happier.”