Many Canadian communities have held “unplug” or “turnoff” events. The following is a description of a successful project organized by the parent council at a school in British Columbia.
“If I watch television I don’t have time to: tickle a tiger’s tummy; climb mountains with kangaroos; travel around the world; watch birds in the sky…”
(Grade 1 class, Monterey Elementary school, Victoria, B.C.)
These comments came from students at an elementary school in British Columbia who were asked to think about television and the role it plays in their lives. They had the extra time for reflection because they were part of a project which saw 64 per cent of the school population turn off their televisions for a week.
Monterey Unplugged is one of many similar projects across the country, in which communities or schools give up their electronic entertainment for a day or a week. Turning off the TV was never intended to be a permanent solution but it did start families thinking about, and evaluating, their media habits.
The Monterey project was undertaken by the school’s parent advisory council after they heard of a similar event in Burnaby, B.C. Parents at the Burnaby school wanted to illustrate how television saps precious family time.
Students who volunteered to participate agreed to not watch TV, play computer or video games or watch videos for a week. A goal of 1300 ‘unplugged’ student days was set. To encourage students and families to join in the event, organizers arranged the following tie-in activities:
- A discussion night kicked off Monterey Unplugged, with a talk on Television, Parents and Children.
- A kit was distributed by the parent council containing a contract, a calendar, a reading list prepared by the library and ideas for alternatives to TV viewing.
- The local recreation centre gave out free passes to participants.
- Museums offered discounts and a chance to enter a draw.
- A school assembly, with the mayor in attendance, was held at the week’s end, and certificates were presented to participants.