tvSmarter – Life in a TV Nation

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Turn-off Week 2014, May 5-11

Screen Free Week 2014

Screen Free Week 2014


CCFC had another excellent screen turn-off week May 5-11, 2014.

The emphasis was on families going screen free for a week (or at least going low-screen for a week).


My favorite write-up was by Traci McGrath. She described how her children have already gone low-TV, watching only about 1 hour per day, and how she was dreading losing that hour per day of uninterrupted time to get things done. But as it happened, things turned out much better than she anticipated:

“I try to make it a habit not to ‘entertain’ the kids all the time. I believe in giving them lots of opportunities to solve their own boredom with creativity – but during Screen Free Week, I hardly had the opportunity to push this little soap box of mine at all. They were so tapped into their own creativity, they were no longer coming to me to ask me what they could do, and they completely forgot to ask if they could “watch a show” (a question I’m used to fielding 2 or 3 times a day.) We still made a point to play together, but it was almost always the case that I was simply invited in to join a game they had invented or go on a scavenger hunt they had created.”

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Channel One Campaign


This week, CCFC sent letters to the Superintendents of Education for each of the 42 states where Channel One has a “significant presence”.

From this letter:

“Since its founding in 1989, Channel One News has been widely criticized both for its business model and its content. Channel One loans schools television equipment if they agree to show a daily 12‐minute program that includes news, feature stories, and two minutes of commercials targeted specifically at students. No other company generates revenue by compelling a captive audience of students to watch television commercials during taxpayer funded class time. For advertisers, the benefits are obvious. As Channel One’s founder, Joel Babbitt, once remarked, “The advertiser gets kids who cannot go to the bathroom, cannot change the station, who cannot listen to their mother yell in the background, who cannot be playing Nintendo.” But for students and educators, Channel One is a terrible deal.”

Exactly. A big reason so many kids are failing in school is because they are spending a huge amount of time watching TV (kids spend, on average more time watching TV than they spend in school). Schools using Channel One are sending the message to parents and kids that watching TV is good for kids.

CCFC has setup a Campaign page urging everyone to write to their state superintendent of education to get the message across that Channel One is a bad deal for kids and schools , plus they have nifty tools to make this quick and easy:”

I just sent my email, I hope you’ll do the same!

More on Channel One:

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CCFC – The Mouse That Roared

Baby Einstein by khara
Baby Einstein, a photo by khara on Flickr.

Walt Disney is a multi-billion dollar mega-corporation, and according to Wikipedia “It is the largest media conglomerate in the world in terms of revenue.” Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood (CCFC), on the other hand, is a tiny multi-thousand dollar non-profit who took on Walt Disney… and won.

“Parent alert: the Walt Disney Company is now offering refunds for all those “Baby Einstein” videos that did not make children into geniuses. They may have been a great electronic baby sitter, but the unusual refunds appear to be a tacit admission that they did not increase infant intellect. “We see it as an acknowledgment by the leading baby video company that baby videos are not educational, and we hope other baby media companies will follow suit by offering refunds,” said Susan Linn, director of Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, which has been pushing the issue for years.

And it didn’t take long for Disney to take it’s revenge:

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Screen-Free Week Feedback

I should have posted this earlier, but here is some of the excellent feedback that CCFC received after the 2012 Screen-Free Week:

“It was WONDERFUL! We are vowing screen-free afternoons for as long as we can do it . . . fewer meltdowns and a happier family!!”

“It was refreshing. I got more sleep ( . . . and realized I am too much of a slave to staying on top of FB and Twitter) . . . . we dusted off “Clue” and “Trouble” instead of watching a movie during family time . . . the boys chatted with us (and each other) a bit more and spontaneously practiced the piano (perhaps a first . . . ). I think our younger son “detoxed” because he had fewer emotional outbursts. We did notice how “screens” are so woven into our everyday lives, and we needed to use the computer and iPad for work and research—but even this recognition was useful.”

“I’m planning on doing this at least every season! I finished so many neglected projects!”
“What a great screen-free week! I enjoyed distraction-free conversation with my family, more time outdoors, finding fun things to do in my community, and caught up on reading my Alaska Magazine. I will be seriously cutting my screen time from now on. I challenged my kindergarten class to do the same with their families and heard about the great things they are doing instead. Great week!”

“I can honestly say it was one of the most connecting weeks I’ve ever spent with my son (almost 4) since he was born. We did SO much fun stuff together. Overall, I just felt so much more in the moment than I normally find myself. And I know Lucas actually enjoyed it . . . when I told him yesterday we had come to the end of our week, he asked me if we could keep doing it. Going to try to take some of the changes we made and apply them long-term on a daily basis.”


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Screen-Free Week 2012 – Upcoming Events

Children playing by Pawel Maciejewski
Children playing, a photo by Pawel Maciejewski on Flickr.

Wow, CCFC has done a masterful job getting the word out on Screen-Free week.

Here is their list of upcoming Screen-Free events:

From their email, a sample includes:

– Read Boston has asked 4,000 students in 12 partner schools to take the screen-free pledge! Children who return their tracking logs after break will receive a prize pack with items that promote fun (and learning) without screens.

– Screen-Free Kansas City and the Early Years Institute in Long Island have both partnered with local businesses to offer discounted and free fun activities every day of Screen-Free Week!

– Unplug and Play in Bozeman, Montana has organized daily events including free admission to the Museum of the Rockies, a Bike Rodeo, and Family Science Night at the Children’s Museum.

– Portland (Oregon) Parks and Recreation and Kaiser Permanente are offering activities including a tea party for young children, Family Game Night, and Messy Art!

Plus, here are some of the excellent blog posts on accepting the Screen-Free week challenge:


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The NAEYC – What Would You Recommend?

The “National Association for the Education of Young Children” and the “Fred Rogers Center” have come out with a new position paper on technology use in the classroom. The NAEYC’s is a highly influential organization, with nearly 80,000 members (according to their website). “NAEYC convenes thought leaders, teachers and other practitioners, researchers, and other stakeholders and sets standards of excellence for programs and teachers in early childhood education.” Their position paper are important because teachers and schools all over the country take their recommendation into consideration when deciding how to teach and what tools to use in the classroom.

Last year’s position paper was very pro-screen time in the school and daycare centers. The CCFC presented a letter at the yearly NAEYC conference signed by 70 doctors and experts making a number of criticisms and recommendations for improvement.

The NAEYC seems to have taken this letter and other public pressure into consideration. Their latest position paper “Technology and Interactive Media as Tools in Early Childhood Programs Serving Children from Birth through Age 8” is much more balanced. Nevertheless, they still fall short in a number of ways.

How should the CCFC respond? That is the question that the CCFC is putting to their members and to the public. Here is your chance to influence CCFC to pressure the NAEYC to make stronger recommendations on limits to screen-time.

You can email them at

Here’s my letter to the CCFC:

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