Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Don't Just Change The Channel

I think it's foolish and dangerous to make television bigger than what it is. The TV set is not an evil, omnipresent Big Brother lurking in your home; it doesn't stick a straw into your head and suck out the juicy pink goo inside; it doesn't tell you what to do because it can't. Besides, how lethal can my TV be if it has an "Off" switch? I can make Rush Limbaugh go away whenever I want but pointing my TV remote at global warming won't make it stop. Television isn't real.

Television is a clever piece of furniture that entertains people and it's only as good as its audience allows it to be. People have been screwed over by bad parents, bad schools, bad hospitals, bad neighborhoods, bad drugs, bad health or bad luck. I don't know anybody who's ever been screwed over by bad television.

On the other hand, you can be screwed over by too much television. Barbara F. Meltz, a reporter on the Boston Globe, has the story:

Heavy TV viewing under 2 is found
Ignoring risks, parents cite 'educational' value

About 40 percent of 3-month-olds watch television or videos for an average of 45 minutes a day, or more than five hours a week, according to the first-ever study of the viewing habits of children under the age of 2.

The study, by pediatric researchers at the University of Washington, also found that by age 2, 90 percent of children are watching television for an average of more than 90 minutes a day.

Such early exposure to screens can have a negative impact on an infant’s rapidly developing brain and put children at a higher risk for attention problems, diminished reading comprehension, and obesity, researchers said.

Researchers said they were surprised not only by the number of hours young children are spending in front of the television but also by the primary reason: Most parents are using television as an educational tool, not for the more conventional explanation of babysitting. Despite nearly a decade of warnings by pediatricians to the contrary, parents believe that the content of programs aimed at babies is good for brain development.

‘‘I wouldn’t be so upset about this if I thought parents were doing it because they needed a break to take a shower or make dinner,’’ said Dimitri Christakas, the University of Washington pediatrician who co-authored the study. ‘‘What I’m troubled by is the notion that parents think it’s good for their kids. That’s more likely to lead to excessive viewing rather than occasional viewing."


Even though this is being done with the best of intentions, this is still child abuse. Why would you methodically squeeze your children's dreams dry?

A child develops by learning to walk, learning to talk, learning to interact with adults and other children, learning to go outside and trying to figure out how the world works. Life is where horror, comedy, tragedy, and adventure live; TV is a pale echo of this experience. An Emmy-winning HBO drama can't equate to the pivotal moments in your life. But if you sit rooted in front of the damned TV, you'll miss those moments, and you won't get them back.

Ain't no reruns in Life.

Thankfully, it's Linda Ellerbee, a respected and outspoken television journalist, who gives us a welcome breath of fresh intellect and common sense. Ellerbee said, Keep TV in it's proper place: beside us, before us, but never between us and real life. That's called being smarter than your television. And you are."

If you want to change the world, and your children, don't change the channel. Change yourself.