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Television, more than 7 hours a day, is average for children 8 to 18

By Edited Nov 13, 2013 0 0

I attempted to name this article "7.6" hours a day, because that is the actual statistic from Harpers' magazine this week, but the infobarrel website would not accept a title with a "." in it. I was amazed and a little sad to see that 7.6 was average. That means, among other things, that quite a few kids are watching much more than that in order to offset all the kids I know in my area who live without TV at all. I live a rural mountainous community where reception is impossible without some kind of satellite or cable hookup, meaning families struggling in this economy, or homeschooling Christians unimpressed with network TV or vegan liberals have all said "no" to TV.

I own one myself, but it's in storage right now. I used to use it to rent netflicks. So don't think I'm some kind of pop culture snob. I like the power of seeing major sporting events live. Having traveled the world in the 1970's, when most of the globe did not have TV, I know looking at still photographs in a day old newspaper is much less thrilling no matter how profound the description. Seeing Masterpiece theater bring Jane Austen to life, again and again, as they continue to re-make the classics, is fun too. No doubt about it, TV is an art form. And TV is here to stay. From the million dollar commercials slated to air during the superbowl to the wacky camera angles popularized by CSI, TV has grown up as a major player in the entertainment buck.

So if I'm not a snob, what is my problem with 7.6 hours a day for the average child to watch TV? First off, it's time NOT spent doing other things. Think about it, we have an obesity epidemic in this country right now. Fingers are pointing at the school system, the loss of recess. But really, those programs were cut with the thought in mind that kids can play at home. And they CAN play at home, they just DON'T if they are parked in front of the set all day being entertained by something out side of themselves. You can proclaim all your want about "educational" TV, but the fact is, that isn't what kids are watching for 7.6 hours a day. If they were, we'd have a cure for cancer by now.

By enlarge, kids are watching reality TV shows where the winner is, the most dysfunctional, the most loud, the most "out-of-the-box." Creating a culture, where money for vulgarity is a given, everyone wants to grow up to make a sex video like Paris Hilton, or pose for Playboy. The media raises your kids if you are too busy, to checked out, or too hypnotized to do it yourself. The media is telling your kids thin is in, and that they aren't thin enough. Fine, but the media is NOT telling them to eat more fiber, or take a jog, more often the message is only one of self-loathing.

So what if we have successfully pulled liquor and cigarette ads off of the boob tube? Kids can find ads for Vicodin and Viagra by merely turning on their e-mail. You can never batten down every hatch. Rather than trying to protect your children from every bad influence, try teaching them how to cope, how to discern, and how to make decisions. I work with two youngish adults (30 and 28) who are a case in point. Dopey and Lucky are apparently not mentally disabled, nor autistic. They just had parents so controlling that neither woman ever learned how to make a decision. They do ok, sort of, putting mail in a box. The younger one doesn't quite understand what to do if the box is full, or if the name on the letter doesn't match the box renter what to do. Hence neither could possibly live on their own.

Here are two people who work a maximum of two hours a day and spend the rest of it in front of the TV. They do not make eye contact or conversation. When someone asks for change to buy a newspaper, the older one has no compunction about giving away our last four quarters despite the 40 mile drive to nearest bank, and the merchant's charge for change. She has no parameters for making decisions. She has no concept of good and bad. She can only do the simple tasks she was trained to do, compliantly and by rote. Any slight change in the color of our paper or the time of day throws her for a loop completely.

I don't think this trend toward needing outside stimulus to entertain us is good. It makes us helpless pawns of the media. So you think your kid NEEDS hundred dollar jeans, just to fit in with the other kids? Where does that idea come from? How about teaching your kid enough self estimation to pick out their clothes, attractive clothes, clothes that fit. How about teaching your kids that anyone who doesn't like you based on the expensive of your clothes really isn't worth knowing?


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