Majid Ali is playing a lot of soccer these days and trying to ignore his parents and brother when they watch his favorite TV show, “The Big Bang Theory.”
“They love torturing me about this,” Majid says.
Beginning March 1, Majid and 114 other seventh-graders at Greendale Middle School in Wisconsin have tried to go cold turkey on technology. No “American Idol.” No Facebook. No Xbox.
The school’s Tune Out is an annual rite of spring, raising funds for charity and raising awareness among kids who have spent their lives plugged in.
Some of the kids lasted a day or two. Others made it through a week. But around 65 are still going strong, aiming to remain unplugged until June 1.
Just exactly how are 12- and 13-year-olds supposed to fill in all those hours in a day when they’re logged off and shut down from technology?
“I’ve been playing a lot of basketball lately,” Kayla Justus says. “And annoying my dad, telling him he has to play with me.”
She also has been reading and finished “The Hunger Games” trilogy.
The Tune Out program was brought to the school five years ago by math teacher John Marzion. Raised in a family of five, Marzion remembered that when he was growing up, his mom would turn off the television for random weeks.
“She saw how we treated each other and said we were different,” Marzion said.
He ran a Tune Out program for four years at a school in Kenosha. This is the program’s fifth year in Greendale.
The rules are pretty simple:
No television watching or movie rentals.
No video games. The kids can’t even watch while others play.
And the only time a computer can be used is for educational purposes, such as researching or completing online assignments.
There used to be a no-texting rule. But Marzion surrendered on that one three years ago when parents told him they were having trouble contacting their kids.
Four hours a day
Just how big a change do the kids make? Well, every year, before the Tune Out, Marzion has the seventh-graders keep daily logs of their use of television, computers, and video games. Members of this year’s class averaged 29.2 hours a week, or more than four hours a day for each student.