Friday, April 28, 2006

TV Turn-Off Week, Part V: Television is BAD FOR KIDS!

One time about twelve years ago, a neighbor I didn't know very well asked me to babysit her six-month old baby. When I arrived at the house, she gave me the usual run-down: the bottle is here, the diapers are there, and she said, the baby is in the bedroom. Just leave the television on and she'll be fine. Then the mom left.

I went into the bedroom to find the baby propped up in an infant seat, facing the tv, about four feet away from it. The program that happened to be on as I entered the room was some kind of lurid drama, with people yelling and threatening each other. I can't report any details about it because of course I turned it off immediately. I picked up the baby and cuddled with her while she had her bottle and went to sleep. When the mom came home, she expressed some irritation that the television wasn't on. I didn't babysit that child again, but I'll never forget that experience.

That's not an illustration of my point, just an introduction to the rant.

Television is bad for kids. The time they spend watching tv would literally be better spent making mud pies. Watching cloud formations. Playing fetch with the dog. Fishing. Building forts. Talking to a friend. Daydreaming. Drawing. ANYTHING!!

Commercials are bad for kids. They have no defense when they are young, and by the time they get a clue, their minds are already formed with a background of advertising propaganda.

TV news is bad for kids. It is violent and frightening.

Television teaches children that they have a right to be entertained. That is a direct cause of boredom. My daughter has never known boredom, and it's partly because we never had television. She had books and art supplies. She could create a whole world with sticks and leaves. As a high school student she laughed when she told me that when new friends found out she didn't have tv, they would say, "What do you do?"--presumably they couldn't imagine how they would fill all the empty hours that would result if they didn't watch television.

I was pleased when I heard Alice say something about Levi jeans, pronouncing the brand like "levee." At age 17, she had never seen a jean commercial on television. Result: she didn't "know" that she needed to spend extra money for a brand name. She decided for herself what clothes she liked to wear, what jeans were comfortable.

American parents don't agree with me. Most kids have television in their bedrooms. Toddlers have their own specially designed remote controls, and their own specially produced shows and movies. American children spend more time in front of the tube than they spend in school. I'm crazy, out of touch with reality. But I'm very glad I raised my daughter without television, and what is more, she is glad, too.

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