I have a radical suggestion – turn the TV off this summer.
Back in 1999 I was embroiled in my Elementary School PTA President years, and that year we decided to observe National No-TV Week. We (okay, I) were astounded at the uproar this caused – not among the children, but among the parents. “There's no way MY kid will do it,” was the most common reaction.
I couldn't believe it, so I took our school's No-TV Week a little further and declared that screens of ANY kind were off limits for the whole week. No TV, no movies, no video games and no computers.
We won the kids over by having a For-Real Treasure Chest by the front door filled with little prizes that a kid could get every day if his parent signed off on his No-TV chart, awarding a bigger prize to anyone who made it all 5 days, and planning a lot of fun extracurricular activities that week. 2/3 of the kids saw it through.
The parents couldn't believe it.
Consider these four points from the website KidsHealth:
School-aged kids spend an average of 6 hours a day in front of a screen; during summer that number goes up a LOT. Six hours is a quarter of the day, people; the biggest chunk of the day after sleeping and school.
Kids who watch a lot of TV are way more likely to be overweight and out of shape than kids who don't.
Kids who see a lot of violence on TV are not only more likely to be violent, they're more likely to be afraid of the world in general. The average American child will see more than 200,000 violent acts on TV by the time they're 18; many of these acts are committed by the show's “heroes.”
Kids see an average of 40,000 commercials annually – that's a lot of “Mommy, buy me that!” Kids under 8 don't understand that commercials are trying to sell them something; kids under 6 don't understand the difference between the commercial and the program.
After that year, No-TV Week became an annual thing at that school, one to which the kids actually looked forward – but somehow, in our house, the TV just never got turned back on. The odd thing was that we didn't miss it at all – there were too many other things to do.
We didn't go entirely screen-free; one night a week is designated "Family Movie Night" and the minor kids have carefully monitored computer-game time. The emphasis here is on the “family” and “carefully monitored.” As the kids got to be high-school-aged we began watching one TV show a week together if we liked it so much we couldn't wait for the current series to come out on DVD (one year it was Heroes; the last couple it's been Supernatural).
What do they do the rest of the time?
They read, play games, make jewelry, ride bikes, fly rockets, go on dates, volunteer, go to work, bake cookies, play with the chickens, do their chores, do homework, hang out with friends . . .
in short, they have a life.