Gilbert is throwing down the anti-couch potato gauntlet. The town will challenge East Valley residents to switch off their TVs for at least five whole days this week in observance of TV Turnoff Week, a national effort coordinated by the nonprofit Center for Screen-Time Awareness.
“We’re trying to get people together, and shutting off the TV is the first step. It doesn’t matter what you do, really, as long as you’re active and engaged,” says Jenifer Ray, a parks department employee who organizes Gilbert’s no-TV-week efforts.
According to the CSTA, the average child spends almost 30 hours per week watching television. The group founded Turnoff Week more than a dozen years ago to show people that life without the boob tube isn’t so bad — and could, just maybe, lead to more productive, rewarding habits with fringe benefits like improving literacy, cutting down on obesity and contributing to happier families and more vibrant communities.
But whatever are people to do without brand-new episodes of “Glee,” the climactic last throes of “Lost” or finding out the winner of “Project Runway”?
In Gilbert, there are about 20 TV alternatives to choose from, says Ray.
Each day this week, the town will host free activities at five locations across town — everything from craft projects and game nights to exotic reptile shows, campfire sing-a-longs and a tailgate party with games.
It’s the third time the parks department has offered programming that encourages people to purposely unplug.
“In surveys we gave out last time, about 80 percent of people said they would leave their TVs turned off for the rest of the night. People who said they would do it for the rest of the week? There definitely weren’t as many of those,” says Ray.
“The biggest comment we got from people was just how glad they were that they had more family time. That’s the whole purpose of it. You’re connecting. Your kids aren’t in one room, playing Wii, while you’re in the kitchen making dinner, and then nobody really connects during dinner because a show is on and no one’s really talking to each other.”