Support our mission
David, left, and Dominic Nordel build model airplanes instead of watching television.

David, left, and Dominic Nordel build model airplanes instead of watching television. (Jennifer Svan / S&S)

David, left, and Dominic Nordel build model airplanes instead of watching television.

David, left, and Dominic Nordel build model airplanes instead of watching television. (Jennifer Svan / S&S)

Yokota West Elementary School Principal Scott Sterry drips with vanilla pudding after a pep rally last week recognizing students who survived a week without TV. One winning student from each grade earned the chance to a toss a pie at their principal. In all, 166 kids survived the week without television.

Yokota West Elementary School Principal Scott Sterry drips with vanilla pudding after a pep rally last week recognizing students who survived a week without TV. One winning student from each grade earned the chance to a toss a pie at their principal. In all, 166 kids survived the week without television. (Jennifer Svan / S&S)

YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan — The television set is considered one of the greatest inventions of the 20th century.

But in era of remote controls and cable TV, it’s easy to have too much of a good thing.

Students at Yokota West Elementary School here got a taste of life without the tube last week. “TV Turnoff Week” ended Friday and 166 students from kindergarten to fifth grade — about 30 percent of the student body — kept their “no television” pledge.

For the Nordel family, the hardest stretch was the weekend.

“You get up in the morning, you want to watch cartoons or a ballgame,” said Pat Nordel, whose two boys, David and Dominic, survived a week without TV. “We opted to listen to the ballgame on the radio.”

Nordel said her kids watch about two hours of television a day. Their favorite show is “Dexter’s Laboratory,” a cartoon about an 8-year-old boy who built a secret science laboratory in his house. David Nordel, a YWES fifth-grader, said living without TV “was a little harder than I suspected.”

Last year, he and his brother eliminated themselves from the competition on the first day: Walking into the commissary, the TV set there caught their eye, and they sat down to watch while their mother shopped.

“It was mostly news,” David said, trying to justify the slip-up.

“It was cartoons,” his mother corrected.

The Nordels, like other YWES students, played outside and read books more during the TV-free week.

Tammie Honore’s fourth- and fifth-grade students had to find sources other than CNN for the daily, five-minute news program they videotape for the school. Some read the paper, searched online or discussed current events with their parents, Honore said.

Turning off the television “gives them a chance to use their imagination to be creative in their thinking — to rely less on someone else’s imagination, which is what TV provides for them,” she said.

YWES third-grade teacher Candace Tiner started “TV Turnoff Week” three years ago after reading online about a similar program. The TV-Turnoff Network, a nonprofit organization in Washington, D.C., promoted its ninth annual “TV Turnoff Week” April 21 to 27.

YWES’s competition worked on an honor system; parents signed a slip of a paper each day their child did not watch TV. Winners earned prizes such as free movie passes and a chance to toss vanilla pudding pies — topped with whipped cream — at YWES principal Scott Sterry.

Sterry dripped pudding from head to toe after the culminating pep rally Friday.

“If we get 50 kids to do this, it’s a huge success,” he said. “Just to get the child to turn off the television, exercise their imagination, and perhaps spend more quality time with their family.”

TV facts and figures

Amount of television the average American watches per day: more than 4 hoursPercentage of U.S. households with at least one TV: 98Percentage of U.S. households with exactly two TV sets: 35Percentage of U.S. households with three or more TV sets: 41Time per day that TV is on in average U.S. home: 7 hours, 40 minutes.Percentage of Americans who always or often watch television while eating dinner: 40.Chance that an American falls asleep with the TV on at least three nights a week: 1 in 4.Percentage of Americans who say they watch too much TV: 49.Percentage of U.S. households with at least one VCR: 85.Number of videos rented daily in the U.S.: 6 million.Number of public library items checked out daily: 3 million.Source: TV Turnoff Network (www.tvfa.org)

author picture
Jennifer reports on the U.S. military from Kaiserslautern, Germany, where she writes about the Air Force, Army and DODEA schools. She’s had previous assignments for Stars and Stripes in Japan, reporting from Yokota and Misawa air bases. Before Stripes, she worked for daily newspapers in Wyoming and Colorado. She’s a graduate of the College of William and Mary in Virginia.
twitter Email

Stripes in 7



around the web


Sign Up for Daily Headlines

Sign-up to receive a daily email of today’s top military news stories from Stars and Stripes and top news outlets from around the world.

Sign up