Friday, April 30, 1999

Family survived without television

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Living without television for one week was no big turn-off for Mike and Lynn McClellan's family.

        “It wasn't horrible. It wasn't earth shattering,” Mrs. McClellan said.

        The Mount Washington family of six participated in the fifth annual National TV-Turnoff Week, April 22-28. TV-Free America, a national organization that encourages people to watch less television, sponsored the event.

  Now that National TV Turn-off Week is over, the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences suggests these tips when turning the tube back on:
  • Have guidelines: Check channel listings, look for different points of views in programs.
  • Plan viewing: Watch specific shows rather than turning it on to see “what's on.”
  • Make it a family event: Use story lines to talk about things that can be difficult to discuss, such as family relationships, feelings, values, or appropriate sexual behavior. Think out loud and encourage kids to say what's on their minds.
  • Talk back: Express your opinion by talking to the TV. Challenge commercials and the way they try to sell not only products but attitudes and lifestyles.
  • Expand your world: Take a field trip to the library to find related books, articles, videos and CD-ROMS based on ideas you've seen on TV.
  • Go online: Visit Web sites of television networks and media literacy groups. Go to for links to media literacy sites and projects and the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences.
  For a brochure of tips, send a postcard with your name and address to: Creating Critical Viewers, NATAS Nashville, 27 Music Square East, Nashville, TN, 37203.
        Overall, they read more, spent time outside, played more board games and talked more. But the week got off to a rocky start the first day when Dr. McClellan turned on The Today Show while working out on an exercise machine in the basement.

        “He flipped on the TV without thinking about it,” Mrs. McClellan said. “Andy went downstairs and said, "Daaad!”'

        The McClellans have four children: David, 15; Katie, 12; Andy, 10; and Kevin, 7. Each family member watches an average of one to three hours a day, plus some of the children play Nintendo one to two hours a day.

        The week was hardest on Katie, who routinely watches TGIF, ABC's two-hour sitcom block Friday night. When she was busy doing other things, like getting a head start on her term paper, she forgot television.

        “When I remember we do have a TV, I start to miss it,” Katie said earlier this week. “I think it will be weird just holding the remote again.”

        While they didn't miss television that much, they were a little lost without the news and the family's favorite show, 7th Heaven.

        Instead of watching 7th Heaven last Monday night, the McClellans played the Life board game. It was nice to see the children talking over board games, Mrs. McClellan said, instead of silently watching television.

        Dr. and Mrs. McClellan missed the news they watch before bedtime. Mrs. McClellan also missed the TV's five-day weather forecasts, which she relies on to help plan the family's schedule.

        “If we took all of the TVs out of the house, I wouldn't really miss them,” Dr. McClellan said. He suggested the family may do a TV-free weekend if the children start watching TV too much.

        The McClellans learned that while the TV can be off at home, it's hard to isolate yourself from the tube.

        David attended a youth lock-in last Friday night at his church, Knox Presbyterian, where videos were shown. Katie and Kevin tried not to watcha video of The Indian in the Cupboard, shown at their school, Sands Montessori. Andy took an out-of-town school field trip to Williamsburg, Va., where he tried not to watch television in his motel room.

        Even though Katie missed television, she thinks she'll watch a little less now. “I won't be hysterical when I miss TGIF, because I know there are other things I can spend my time on. But, it's still one of my favorite things to do.”

        And the adults?

        “I still like 7th Heaven,” Mrs. McClellan said. “And I'm sure we'll still watch that 15 minutes of news before bedtime.”


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