Students Tuning Out Television

(Riverport, NS, Canada) – Riverport students are saying no to television. Many students have agreed to turn off their sets for at least a few nights as part of the TV Busters program, designed to encourage them to find alternatives to television.

“It’s such a strong influence,” says teacher Tom Muise, who has been co-ordinating the program in schools for 10 years. While helping students become more selective viewers, TV Busters also creates opportunities for other activities, such as reading, hobbies, homework or physical activity.

“I think TV is the enemy of reading,” says Mr. Muise. “If people watch too much TV they forget what to do with their hands as well.”

Too much television can also have an adverse effect on a student’s ability to learn because it dulls creative skills, he says. Television is not like reading, which allows you to use imagination to form images. “TV takes that away from you.”

Mr. Muise first read about the program, now the largest of its kind in the world, 10 years ago when students in a fourth grade classroom in Minnesota gave up television for more than two months. Since then, he has been challenging students to do the same.

“There’s nothing wrong with television, but if people watch it all the time and they don’t develop their other skills and hobbies, then it’s a shame,” he says.

News and educational programs are permitted, in moderation, so Grade 6 student Matt Durnford was allowed to enter for the evening he watched a caribou special on the Nature of Things.

On evenings students don’t watch television, they fill out a ballot describing what they did instead, giving them an opportunity to win prizes ranging from books and stickers to 3-D glasses and dominos. During the first week of the two-week program, most of the school’s 110 students tuned out at least one night.

“They choose to participate. It’s completely voluntary,” says Mr. Muise. And those that did had no problem finding other activities to keep them busy.

Chris Silver, one of last week’s random winners, built a fort while Sonja Levy played with her sister, did homework and read. Bothers Michael and Alex Garland sorted their hockey cards, walked their dog, and went to church.

“It was easy for me and Michael because we don’t have cable,” says Alex, who’s in Grade Primary.

Many students did homework and read, while others visited a neighbour, drew, played the piano, helped make supper and split wood.

“It taught us that we could find other things to do,” says Daniele Mossman.

Students tuning out television
Theresa Hawkesworth
Lighthouse staff

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