Chattering Mind

“Television is a chewing gum for the eyes,” architect Frank Lloyd Wright once sneered. I suspect he didn’t watch very much, and he got a lot accomplished in his 92 years.

“Turn Off Your Television” week begins Monday, April 23rd. Whatever your circumstances–married, single, kids, no kids–now is a great time to turn off your glowing box. (You may even want to start your prohibition sooner, given the distressing quality of this week’s news). I have a friend in Western Massachusetts who routinely covers his television and computer monitor (when not in use) with beautiful pieces of fabric that neutralize what he calls “the distortion” these appliances bring into our lives. The fabric makes his living space quite a bit prettier too.

If I hadn’t married a media junkie, if I’d put my children into a Waldorf school (where parents agree as a community to virtually prohibit television), I would have given away our TV years ago. I think I’d do fine without it. I like radio. But given that my destiny seems tied to the real world’s (do I sound like I’m making excuses?), I currently have many disagreements with my children (now 10 and 12) about when television is appropriate.

Here’s something I’ve discovered along the way, though: Parents must provide their children with something else to do. You can’t just say, “No TV. Go play.” I’d wager that parents whose kids aren’t watching TV spend more money than others on books, modeling wax, yarn, paint, old radio shows and board games.
You have to “work” your job as parent harder when you’re not falling back on the boxy babysitter (which has such a stunning ability to silence kids for hours). It’s your show, not Sponge Bob’s.

If you need more support, here’s the TV Turn-Off website. Chinaberry, the terrific book and audio tape company, was smart to put out a list of toys, books, and tapes they sell that might help kids suffering from TV withdrawal. And here’s what I feel is the best-ever written family media policy, a definition of what constitues healthy family TV viewing, by my penpal Nell Minow, a.k.a. “Movie Mom,” a Yahoo movie critic. She begins her treatise with, “Watching television or videos is a treat, not a right.” And she plows on from there. I think you’ll quickly install her beliefs as your ultimate rules of the house.

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