Friday, April 01, 2005

Casting Out Your TV

Every once in a while on the Internet, you run into “TV-free families”. These people actually get rid of their TVs – disconnect the cable, take the TV to the curb, the works. The TV is being perceived as the ultimate evil.

Of course, the fact that they then post about it on their blogs or Internet forums, raises a lot of questions such as “if TV is evil, then why isn’t the Internet?”, but I digress.

I’m guessing too much of anything can be an evil. If you eat too much, you’ll gain weight. If you eat way too much, you’ll ruin your health and possibly die. Doesn’t mean you should stop eating.

My understanding is, there is such thing as TV addiction. If you or someone on your family are indeed addicted, then of course I would encourage taking the TV to the curb. I’ve never been affected myself, though. My parents enjoyed reading, outdoor activities, and a few hours of TV per week. They used to go through the schedule, check off one or two movies that they wanted to see, and we’d then watch those movies as a family. We were not a TV-watching family by any means, even compared to my classmates. I remember feeling constantly embarrassed when I came to school, and everybody was discussing yesterday’s movie, and I used to be the only kid in class with no clue what they were talking about.

My third year in college, my roommates and I rented a TV. Actually, the three of us and three girls from another room all chipped in, and our two rooms took turns keeping the TV. That was when I found out, for the first time in my life, that there are people who turn the TV on first thing in the morning, let it run in the background all day, and turn it off right before going to bed. That struck me as a very strange way to kill your time. Apparently, that’s what a lot of my classmates did and that’s how they got to see all those latest movies.

I guess, if you grow up with the TV constantly on, you really can grow up to be an addict. As for me, I’m more of the opposite. I can go on for days without ever feeling like turning the TV on. Most of the time, I don’t remember it’s there. My husband, on the other hand, is an avid TV viewer, and watches it all evenings and weekends.

As for the kids, I have a confession to make. When they were little, we used the TV as a babysitter. They watched a lot of cartoons. My excuse is, we were new to the country, we thought those cartoons were good, and we wanted the kids to learn the language. This lasted for several years, during which I developed a burning hatred for Cartoon Network. Eventually, we banned the channel (except for Adult Swim) on account of it being stupid and not funny (except for Adult Swim). We switched to Nickelodeon and Comedy Central. A year later, we dumped Nickelodeon. Last year, we got DVR and life has never been the same. Now, we only watch what we want to see – some Comedy Central, some Sci-Fi Channel, a few other shows here and there.

It was about that time that I12 bailed. Just like that, he stopped watching TV. Now, he hardly watches at all (please don’t ask me how much time he spends on the Internet – that’s irrelevant, right? right??) Get this… he can walk right past the TV with the new South Park on, and go straight to his room! How weird is that? I guess I shouldn’t worry about that kid becoming a TV addict!

K9 puts in quite a few hours of TV every week, coming in a close second after my husband. He is actually an interesting case, in that he will watch anything. He will watch junk and enjoy it. He will watch commercials and want to buy whatever is being advertised. He will watch “whatever is on” – a foreign concept for me and I12. On top of it, watching TV makes him hungry. I see this situation as a challenge.

If he watches junk, I tell him, “K9, stop, it’s giving me a headache!” or, “K9, I think this cartoon is not funny, and it is kinda dumb too”. When he wants something that he just saw in a commercial, all three of us explain to him the details about the product being advertised, what the catch is, and how it is practically the same as the old brand. When he really wants something, he can buy it… with his own money, and he has to convince us first. He used all of his birthday money to buy a Nintendo DS. He already had a Gameboy, but hey, on TV they said that touching is good. We gave him four months to think it through, but after the four months, he still wanted it. Now he has a DS and an empty wallet. Oh well. Not my problem.

I’m hoping to raise two informed, reasonable TV viewers. I don’t see TV as an evil in itself. It is a source of valuable information (if you know how to process it critically). It is a source of knowledge (Animal Planet, Discover Channel). And, when you’re tired, you can all sit together in front of your TV and unwind... I see nothing wrong with that! All the TV-bashing talk reminds me of my childhood years, when too much reading was considered bad for children’s health. These days, when you hear a mother say, “My son reads all the time”, it is said with pride. In my day, it was often followed by, “What should I do, doctor?”

One other thing that gets me, I’ve heard from several people that they banned certain channels and shows for their children (and I am talking kids' cartoons such as Spongebob), because these channels or shows use bad words, such as… yeah, you wish... no, the real bad words they use are “stupid”, and, on a few serious occasions, “dork”. I’d like to ask these parents what it feels like to be living in a plastic bubble. Because in my part of the planet, kids actually meet and talk to each other, and go places where they meet other kids, and learn all kinds of words, and “stupid” is not the worst of them. The bad words are rumored to emanate from public schools. Not so. My kids learned all swear words in the course of two weeks, when we lived in an apartment complex. I12 had a friend there who taught them all the stuff. I wasn’t very thrilled about it, but it wasn’t too big of a deal to me, either.

Bottom line is, do not take your TV to the curb! You can ship it to me instead. Especially if it’s a big screen.

The Goldie has spoken at 9:40 AM

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