Turn off the TV and get outside

Seven days without Spongebob or Hannah Montana? Yes, it’s possible. Nebraska kids — and adults — are being prodded into switching off their television viewing habits for all of next week as part of National Turn Off the TV Week.

Dennis Haney, an advocate for healthy living, says everyone is encouraged to turn off their TVs for the week and enjoy other activities like playing outside, biking, walking, whatever they might enjoy. A study finds American children watch an average of three hours of TV per day. Just plopping on the couch in front of the tube may tend to promote obesity, but Haney says the ads that bombard kids while they’re sitting can also be a negative influence on their lifestyles.

Every day, Haney says children receive about 58 commercial messages from TV alone and about half of them are for food. Of those commercials, about 98-percent of those on weekend morning network TV are for unhealthy foods high in fat, sodium, cholesterol or sugar. Also, he says the amount of marketing aimed at children has more than doubled during the last decade, from $7 billion to $15 billion a year.

Many Nebraska children will not voluntarily give up the tube and Haney says that’s where the parents will likely have to step in. He says moms and dads need to be good role models: “Being aware of our own TV habits, knowing our kids will take their cues from us.” Also, know you may have to endure your kids’ complaints. While it may be a parent’s biggest challenge, he says to stick with it.

Haney says parents also need to help their kids deal with the “boredom” of no TV and be prepared to suggest other activities. Over time, kids will learn to entertain themselves. For more tips to tuning out, log on to the national website: www.tvturnoff.org.