'No TV' Campaign Brings Families Together

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The summer TV season is beginning and once again we're reminded that too much TV isn't good for kids. 

For the Chalfant family, spending time together is not only fun, it's important.

"We always make it a priority to eat dinner together," mom Brook Chalfant said. "Beyond that, game night."

The kids say they're cool with all the family bonding -- but they are quick to admit that private time is good too.

Like most teenagers, 16-year-old Kylie enjoys chatting with her friends online.

"(I) sign in first on myspace usually," Kylie said.

Addyson, 14, tunes into her iPod.

And 9-year-old Ellian plugs into her portable video game.

"I never get past this level," Ellian said.

While their parents say it's okay for kids to enjoy the latest gadgets -- there should be limits.

"We want them to be involved in other activities, the TV and computer can think for them, we want them to think for themselves, to read, to play games, to play cards, to do something creative where they're not having stuff shoved into their heads but they can pour things out also," said Chuck Chalfant, father to the three girls.

"We just believe that kids are being dumbed down," Brook said. "I don't want them to think something because they see it and think that there's this false reality.

"If they can interact with real people then they're going to get so much more of a real education," she added.

Melissa Henson of the Parents Television Council encourages parents to monitor just how much TV their kids are watching.

"Television is a major part of a child's life in this day and age, according to some surveys, children spend more time with television than with any other socializing influence, more time than they do at school with peers," Henson said.

Henson says watching less TV now may help kids in the long run.

"Television consumption has been linked to a number of negative health associations. We know that kids associated with high levels of violence in the media are more likely to become aggressive or act out violently, we know that kids exposed to high levels of sexual content in the media become sexually active earlier in life," Henson said. "It's also been associated with poor academic performance."

While most kids watch TV alone in the bedrooms, watching together offers lots of benefits.

"You see personalities a lot more, sort of banter, a lot of laughter," Brook said. "We're talking through -- like, if we're watching (American) Idol, they'll call us if they think we're getting too critical," she added.

Members of Antioch Missionary Baptist Church recently challenged kids and their parents in their congregation to shut off their TV's, computers and cell phones -- for an entire year.

Youth director Delphine Tucker says the goal is to get kids to spend more time studying and less time in front of the tube or surfing the net.

"We have a pastor with a vision," Tucker said. "Part of his vision is he wants our children here at Antioch Missionary church as well as the community and just children abroad to excel and exuberate excellence."

"Initially, everyone was very hot-headed, because they said, 'No TV for a year?'" Tucker added.

While the kids admit turning off the electronics will be hard, they say the prizes, which include new bikes, laptop computers and even a trip to Africa for high school seniors, are well worth it.

"It's a big committment," said 16-year-old Brian Edwards. "I use the phone like everyday, texting, calling, computer."

"I feel great because I haven't been riding a bicycle in a while, in a while," said 7-year-old Elian Edwards.

And what do parents think of the campaign?

"Working in the school system, I know a lot of our kids when they get out of school they run home and the first thing they want to do is watch TV," said mom Pamela Smith. "Having my child sign this contract, it allows her responsibility."

"We're excited about the opportunity to test this type of adventure and we as a family have talked abut it prior to this commitment and we look forward to rewards of sacrificing and no television and cell phones," said dad Brian Edwards.

Since the No TV campaign began, results have been dramatic.  More than half of the students who made the pledge are now on the honor roll.  Tucker admits, however, they must be vigilant in order for success to continue.

"We're going to get those children who may be falling off the bandwagon or attempting to but we're not going to let them," Tucker said.

Meanwhile, the Chalfant kids are grateful for the boundaries set by their parents.

"They don't want me to be a couch potato," Kylie said. "I like spending my time with my family so I don't really mind having rules most of the time. I mean, there are times I wish I could stay on longer, but for the most part I'm happy with their rules."

 

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Charlene  Aaron

Charlene Aaron

CBN News Reporter

Charlene Aaron serves as a general assignment reporter and helps anchor for the CBN News Channel.  Follow her on Twitter @CharNews and "like" her at Facebook.com/CharleneIsraelCBNNews.