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Sensible Policy on TV


Q. My kids watch 'way too much TV. I know I've got to get them to knock it off. But how?


TV was introduced into American homes, and boom! Standardized test scores, especially for verbal skills, started to go down. This is not a coincidence. TV is poisonous to school performance, poisonous to healthy socializing, poisonous to lifelong learning for adults. If you're stupefied in front of the boob tube, what are you becoming? What else? A boob!!!


The landmark book on this topic, The Plug-In Drug, adds these factors:


         Don't focus so much on the content of what your child is watching, as on the "opportunity cost" of what your child is giving up by spending so much time with the TV. Your child is missing out on outside play, play with friends, time for reading, a chance to build models and do crafts, imaginative play, family relationship building, memory building, and much more, not to mention school achievement.


         TV really does make a child into a passive zombie who has trouble concentrating, yet resists proper nutrition and a sensible bedtime, just like a "stoned" person does.


         TV really is addictive, physically.


         There are direct connections between heavy TV watching and aggression. It doesn't even have to be violent TV; it's just that, when the child watches TV all the time, the child is NOT playing, and play is a child's No. 1 outlet for natural, healthy aggression. Also, when the TV is NOT on, the mom and dad usually are interacting more with the child, guiding him or her to handle anger and other emotions better.


         The No. 1 reason parents don't sharply curtail their children's TV time, or get rid of the TV altogether, is that they are . . . well . . . wimps.


There's lots, lots more, of course. But the bottom line is, parents who do NOT throw the TV's out of the house, or at the very least limit their child's watching time to an hour a day or less, are short-changing their children academically, emotionally, socially, physically, and every other way, making their family relationships stale and passive instead of active and vibrant, and asking for all sorts of trouble and woe.


Who needs it? Not us!


All together, now: put your thumb on that "OFF" button, smile, and PUSH!!!


Homework: The Plug-In Drug by Marie Winn has been updated and reissued in paperback for its 25th anniversary. It's essential for parents and educators who want to do what they can to prevent children from getting hooked on TV, and bumped off the learning curve.


By Susan Darst Williams Ages & Stages 136 2008***

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