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NICHD Supports TV-Turnoff Week 2001 in April

By Christina Stile

"I find television very educating. Every time somebody turns on the set, I go into the other room and read a book." — Groucho Marx

The National Institute of Child Health and Human Development will join more than 65 organizations and thousands of schools, libraries and community groups in a nationwide effort to encourage Americans to turn off their TV sets for 7 days. TV-Turnoff Week 2001, which runs from Apr. 23-29, offers people a chance to turn off the TV and focus on activities that are more intellectually, socially and physically rewarding.

"TV-Turnoff Week is a great opportunity to take a break from the thing that consumes so much of our free time," said Dr. Duane Alexander, NICHD director. "Watching a lot of television can affect family time, children's success in school and overall family health."

According to Nielsen Media Research, Americans watch an average of 4 hours of television every day. This same research group found that an average American child will spend more time watching TV this year (1,023 hours) than he or she will in school (900 hours).

NICHD recognizes the importance of TV-Turnoff Week because excessive TV-watching contributes to many of the health problems that the institute studies. Obesity, type 2 diabetes, attention disorders, aggressive behaviors, sedentary lifestyles, and poor reading skills are only some of the health issues influenced by TV-watching.

In addition, NICHD research is also exploring the effects of television on children's school achievement. For instance, findings from one such study indicate children who watch more than 13 hours of TV each week did worse on tests of verbal and math achievement than other children. The same study also revealed that children who read more achieved at higher levels than children who read little or did not read at all.

"We are truly grateful for the support of so many noteworthy, national organizations," said executive director of TV-Turnoff Week, Frank Vespe. "Their support for TV-Turnoff Week 2001 is vital to showing millions of children and adults the importance of turning off the TV and turning on life."

Other organizations that support the event include the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Medical Association, the National Parenting Organization of America, the Natural Resources Defense Council and the YMCA. For a complete list of participating groups, check out

In addition to support from NICHD and other national groups, teachers and school principals often go to great lengths to promote TV-Turnoff Week. In 1999, a teacher in Georgia had to "kiss a chicken" when students met his challenge to be TV-free for 1,000 hours. A principal in California spent an entire school day on the roof as a result of the challenge he issued, for three-fourths of his students to remain TV-free for a week.

Some of the more practical ideas for staying free of TV include moving it to a less prominent place in the house, not watching during dinner, playing board games as a family and hiding the remote control.

Since 1995, when the first TV-Turnoff Week was held, more than 24 million people have joined in this demonstration. The TV-Turnoff Network, formerly TV-Free America, is the national nonprofit organization that coordinates the event. For more information, contact the network at (202) 518-5556, or via the Internet at

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