Chattering Mind

Chattering Mind

Can You Last a Week Without Television?

“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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Anonymous Also

posted April 19, 2007 at 10:51 pm

I’ve evolved (or devolved) from a sattelite dish with 500 channels, (seemingly), to expanded cable, to rabbit ears. I am not missing a thing.

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posted April 20, 2007 at 2:10 am

In past years it’s always been my Mom who’s dragged my dad and I into TV Turn-off Week–this time it’s me. Although I’ll miss my weekly fix of Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, Degrassi: The Next Generation,, and various docs on PBS and other channels, (did I mention our huge collection of DVD’s??) I think of how much carbon dioxide we’ll save (since seeing An Inconvenient Truth, I’ve stepped up my desire to be as environmentally friendly as I can be). Oh, and I won’t have to deal with Dad leaving the TV on in one end of the house when he’s reading a book (or working on his stamp collection) at the other end–I’ll only have to scold him when he turns the darn thing on–boy, am I looking forward to that! (sarcasm)

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posted April 20, 2007 at 4:17 am

So true about “distortions”. Anna Nicole was no special person. If you ever watched the “Anna Nicole Show” (as I humbly admit I sometimes did)you know what a drugged up, gluttonous, confused, sometimes heartless soul she was. After death, TV treated her as an important person, a beautiful person, a person who made a difference somehow. Huh? Distortion, baby. I got the news about VT and need no more. The coverage will go on forever. Tonight I saw a “teaser” news clip that promised a look inside the shooter’s dorm room. They showed us a picture of his trash can full of water bottles. I don’t care about the man’s trash can. I don’t care about the water bottles in the trash can. I care about what happened but it’s not going to fill my brain and my conversations.

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posted April 20, 2007 at 2:40 pm

Sorry but I think I’m in the minority here. I enjoy tv and have my favorite shows that I tune into everyday. It’s a kind of therapy to me. It gets me out of the real world and gets my mind on other things. I live in a household that doesn’t have cable – just regular broadcast tv watched with the aid of “rabbit ears”. Can’t say I’m missing anything either. My kids grew up on tv but they did get out and play, play board games, read, participated in sports and other school related activities. They were well-rounded despite the fact they also enjoyed watching the tv. Why can’t we have it all? I do agree though that I don’t like all media coverage that goes beyond what we need to know and shoves things down our throats for sake of ratings. I generally shut off most news coverage and other shows of that type. Shall I say that I’m discretional about what I watch? barb

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posted April 20, 2007 at 6:09 pm

Now that my children are away at Univ. I’ve discovered TV. We never had time to watch much when the 3 were here. There are some great shows on. I also dont watch any of the news programs, They are all hype and scare themes. I get my news from the paper, I can choose what I read. I really love the History and cooking channels. What do you all think of the TV’s in the vans now? I saw a little one in a car seat with the TV on! Dont families want to talk with each other at all? Although they would be nice on really long trips.

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posted April 20, 2007 at 6:39 pm

“TV rotts your brain!” Im sure everyone has heard that. Its true . . . kind of. “Sugar rotts your teeth!” . . . well . . . brush your teeth, and your brain so to speek. Now if all you eat is sugar, and only sometimes brush your teeth, your teeth will begin to rot. And so, if you mostly watch TV and only sometimes excercise and clean your brain it will rot too, so to speak. TV like sugar is also addictive, and mind/body altering. Our sences get accoustimed to the sweetness and glitter, but its empty . . . it cant nourish us . . . yet it is a real experience, it evokes sensation, thought, and emotion. And because each experience each of us has leaves and impression on us that becomes part of what makes us into who we are (how ever small it is, it is there with each experience)what we see on TV becomes part of us, even if we dont believe or agree with it, want whats being advertised or not. Its planted a seed, of sort, in us that will try to grow, to influance our thoughts, emotions, and behavior. Hours and hours of this bombardment of spoon fed, pre-digested information and glittered up psyco-babble cannot be good for maintaining a healthy, well functioning, loving, thoughtful, and synergy minded society, community, or family. “They only tell you what they want you to hear. They only tell you what they want you to fear.” -KK One experiment for anyone to try: For 15 to 60 minutes, observe the reactions of young children (ages 3-8 or so)watching new ‘Cartoon Network’ cartoons and then observe their reactions to watching ‘old-school’ cartoons like Popeye, old Loony Toons, even the Three Stooges etc . . . Do you see what I see?

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Anonymous Also

posted April 21, 2007 at 4:07 am

I didn’t intend to imply that All – TV – Is – Bad – And – So – Are – People – Who – Watch – It. I enjoyed my satellite and cable when I had it, my gripe still is about the repetitiveness of it (I had 17 or 18 Jewelry / Home Shopping channels on my satellite alone). And on news coverage, I think I watched 10 minutes tops of the VT shootings and knew all I needed. Back on 9/11, I learned more from a half hour of watching CBC’S coverage than I ever did from the hours – on – end US networks. So, TV’s useful, it can be fun and educational, but there’s just so much crap you got to wade through to get to it.

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posted April 22, 2007 at 12:40 am

Why in the world can’t Everyone just decide for themselves!?? I agree there is Much to be desired on TV, (with or without cable/dish), these days and WAY Too Many commercials, violence and exaggeration in the news, But as adult humans, many whom are parents, rules should be made in each individual home as with use of a computer! Certainly just not watching it won’t change those who release All the rubish onto our screens, and it’ll Still be there when we turn TV on again. To say nothing of those who will Still do violent acts against society, wether they see it on TV, read it or are just insane! There was Always some sort of craziness in the world, or we’d not have had any wars!!

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posted April 23, 2007 at 3:46 am

I heard the average kid sees 20,000 murders on tv while they grow up. And this doesn’t count video games, MTV, or movie violence. We are at a saturation point. To me, this is the main reason to shut it off. All the other shows (some good, some bad) are benign as compared to the violent trash!

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posted April 23, 2007 at 5:35 pm

I’m always very wary of black & white statements such as “TV is bad. Turn it off!” Such an oversimplification! TV is simply a tool, like radio or computers. How you use them, and how often, determines whether they are harmful or helpful in your life.

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