Sunday, April 26, 2009

If Only To Encourage You

Last week was the National TV Turn Off week but I am proud to say that at our house, it was an ordinary week.

I grew up with television in the house and watched it regularly. Our bed routine included special programming from one of the two communist controlled channels that attempted to 'soothe' kids to bed. However, my childhood memories are of long days of playing outside during all four Siberian seasons not of television. This is because when the children's programming from the limited channels exhausted, there was nothing else to do but to go play outside. These were the days when children as young as 4 years old were let from the centrally planned subsidized apartment buildings without much supervision with moms only occasionally checking on them from the balconies. Child molestation and abduction were virtually unheard of.

Sadly, those safe days are over for Russia. Here in America, kids are almost always supervised even in their own back yard. The paranoia of child abduction overwhelms that of the kid accident. It is ironic that we find ourselves in this state when children are conveniently equipped with 'everything' they need to occupy themselves without leaving the house. There is the cell phone, the iphone, the ipod, the video games, and the good ol' television. Who needs fresh air? And we laughably apply the term NDD (Nature Deficit Disorder) to our own children. Sad.

So, three years ago when it dawned on us that we are wasting our life watching crap, we disconnected our basic cable. We own only but a handful of DVDs and find ourselves sometimes watching home videos or an occasional movie. On average, we watch about one hour or less of something a week. We are NOT a statistic. I refuse to become one just so I can have uninterrupted time to scrub my toilets. The truth is there is no such thing as innocent children programing or cartoons. ALL TV is passive, brainless and non-experimental at its best. The price I could pay for the effect television has on child's brain is simply not worth a sparkly clean house or a fancy gormet meal. Hope you agree with me after reading these frighting statistics I found on a credible website:

~Percentage of U.S. homes with three or more TV sets: 66
~Number of hours per day that TV is on in an average U.S. home: 6 hours, 47 minutes
~Number of hours of TV watched annually by Americans: 250 billion
~Value of that time assuming an average wage of S5/hour: S1.25 trillion
~Number of videos rented daily in the U.S.: 6 million
~Number of public library items checked out daily: 3 million
~Percentage of Americans who say they watch too much TV: 49

~Approximate number of studies examining TV's effects on children: 4,000
~Number of minutes per week that parents spend in meaningful conversation with their children: 3.5
~Number of minutes per week that the average child watches television: 1,680

~Percentage of day care centers that use TV during a typical day: 70
~Percentage of parents who would like to limit their children's TV watching: 73
~Percentage of 4-6 year-olds who, when asked to choose between watching TV and spending time with their fathers, preferred television: 54
~Hours per year the average American youth spends in school: 900 hours
~Hours per year the average American youth watches television: 1500

~Number of murders seen on TV by the time an average child finishes elementary school: 8,000
~Number of violent acts seen on TV by age 18: 200,000
~Percentage of Americans who believe TV violence helps precipitate real life mayhem: 79

~Number of 30-second TV commercials seen in a year by an average child: 20,000
~Number of TV commercials seen by the average person by age 65: 2 million
Rank of food products/fast-food restaurants among TV advertisements to kids: 1

The feeling I experience everyday without television is that of liberation. I do not miss a bit the shallow sitcoms or the dumb reality shows or the nightmare news. I no longer compare my complexion to those of the airbrushed models and am in complete peace with the way I look. No more do I go to bed scared thinking about what I just heard on the news and whether the same maniac currently on the run is going to show up in my house. With every TV related statistic and brain based research read, I look at my own children and have no doubt that besides growing up pop-culture illiterate, they will turn out to be alright.

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