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TV Free America is encouraging all of us to turn off our TV's overthe week of April 22nd-28th.The Quality of Life Association will be working with T.V.F.A. and ourcommunities to join in this important project and, hopefully, to extend ourturn-off beyond that week!

Friends of mine have been adamant that I include a section in myworkbook about how our addiction to TV and entertainment gets in the way ofpersonal relationships, personal growth and growth asa society. They had no trouble convincing me--I see little redeeming valuein television.

Neil Postman wrote a thought provoking book on this topic in 1985and I liked the title so much, I titled the workbook chapter with the samename: Amusing Ourselves To Death. He caused less "public discourse" than Iassume he had hoped to do, for obvious reasons: it challenged the"sacredness" of a major sacred cow, the media and show business industry.

In 1995 Newton Minnow, former Chairman of the FederalCommunications Commission(F.C.C.) wrote an excellent book called "Abandonedin the Wasteland: Children, Television and the First Amendment." An eyeopening quote from this study states: "By the time most Americans are 18years old, they will have spent 15,000 hours in front of a television set,about 4,000 hours more than they have spent in school, and far more thanthey have spent talking with their teachers, their friends or even theirparents." ---So who has more influence in a childs life? Granted, timespent in an activity is not always influence but we must ask ourselves whatARE the best influences for our children?

Sociologists have mapped out that we also spend only 12 minutes aday directly relating to our spouses and less relating to our children! Isthis REALLY where our values lie? Do we really need to be entertained morethan we want to have quality relationships with the people dearest to us?

I believe that unplugging the plug in drug could have atransformative effect on society! Poor school performance, delinquency,commercialism, illiteracy and obesity(even among the young) are all socialproblems which are eating at the fabric of social goodwill. All of theseproblems could be helped by turning off the television. Children would beforced to be more active, more interactive with family and peers, would bemore likely to do homework and less likely to want to buy, buy, buy if thetantalizing tube was not aglow. It would not be a panacea, but it would bea good start! Consider some of the benefits that people who are currentlyliving without television enjoy:

  • An average of 1 hour of meaningful conversation per DAY with theirchildren (this compares with 38 minutes per WEEK as a national average!)
  • 92% of parents say their children "never or rarely" complain aboutlack of TV or pressure them to buy brand names or popular toys.
  • 80% of couples without TV feel that their marriages are strongerdue to no television.(From a study done by Professor Barbara Brock at Eastern Washington University.)
  • More and more people are making the choice do without TV. In theFall of 1993 Julie Jensen and Joe Lynch, along with their three sons, movedinto a home they had built on 5 acres in rural Washington State. Theirvision: "to simplify the stress in our lives, spend more time on thingsthat matter to us, and give our children a chance to enjoy nature." Theydid not consciously choose to remove TV from their lives, but "it turnedout to be one of the real benefits from our move."

    Having settled in a rural area, they found that the only option forTV reception was a satellite dish. This option came with an expense thatthe family felt it should wait on. "We decided that it was consistent withour values and the goals of our move to try doing without TV for anextended time (6 months) and then evaluate whether we wanted to invest in adish or not."

    Julie says of the result: "one of the first things that I noticedwithout TV was how much more time we spent together as a family. We playedboard games and cards; we spent more time outside, and the kids read morebooks(actually I read more books, too). In fact, all 3 of our children areavid readers now, which I think is directly connected to not having TV."

    Doing without the boob tube enhanced family relations, not onlybetween parent and child but between the Julie and Joe as well! " I alsonoticed how much more time I had to talk to Joe. Instead of the standard"how was your day?" we are able to really talk about how our life is going,what we want from our jobs and our relationship, what we dream for ourfuture and our children. It gave our relationship new life, new energy, newintimacy. We spend an average of about 2 hours, every night, talking toeach other! It is amazing how wonderful marriage can be when you give yourrelationship real attention on a regular basis." Right on Julie and Joe!What a joy to make that kind of discovery!

    Another discovery that Julie and Joe's family made was that thestress level in the house in general "went way down" from the reduced noiselevel and less anxiety from the "urgency to catch the next program, alongwith the sound bite view of life."

    This family has now been without TV for 7 years and none of themwant it back! The transition has not been without it's problems of course.

    Each of us must decide whether the television is just too much of atemptation to have around! Is turning the "boob tube" on something we doout of habit or boredom or curiosity and is it keeping us from using ourcreativity in finding ways to bring our friends and family together. Is itthe easy (lazy) way of finishing off the evening? Can some nights of theweek be no TV nights? To spend more quality time with family and friendsand to build community, as many Americans say they want to do, this wouldbe a logical first step.

    Here are suggestions for dealing with this seductive modern device from anorganization called TV Free America:

    1. Designate a "TV Turn Off Night." This can be an effective and enjoyableway to jump-start a change in your family's TV viewing patterns. In can also be a wonderful chance to explore new ways for your family to share time andactivities together. (See TV Free's website for suggestions foralternatives.) Gradually increase the number of nights that the set is offuntil you reach the desired number of nights off.

    2. With any method that you use, be patient. If you can live through 20minutes of moaning and groaning, your children WILL find something else todo. Encourage their creativity, that's one of the benefits to turning offthe tube!

    3. The best, least contentious way to control TV is to unplug it all the way!That makes it pretty black and white.....People who have done it say that it's best "cold turkey" and takes about 2 weeksfor the withdrawal symptoms to subside(remember, we ARE talking addiction here.)

    To find out about how to join in this important experiment contact TV FreeAmerica:

    1611 Connecticut Ave. NW Suite 3A
    Washington, D.C. 20009
    (202) 887-0436


    © Copyright 2000-07 Bruce Draper, All rights reserved.