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TV Rots Your Brain. Read a Newspaper Instead

TV Rots Your Brain. Read a Newspaper Instead

Erik Deckers
Laughing Stalk syndicate
Copyright 2009

"Have you ever thought about DirecTV?" said the message. My wife had just IMed me while I was at work.

"Uhh, no, no I haven't," I replied, getting defensive. "And so what if I have? There's nothing wrong with that. Dr. Phil says fantasies are important to having a healthy relationship. I mean, sure I walk through Best Buy with sunglasses on, but that's because it's so dang bright in there."

"What are you talking about?" she wrote back.

"All right, all right. Sometimes I think about DirecTV when I'm watching our other TV. But that's perfectly normal, isn't it?" I was rolling now. "I once had a TV accuse me of looking at other TVs, but I said 'hey, just because I bought a TV from the electronics store, doesn't mean I can't look at the ads once in a while.'"

"You're weird," my wife messaged back.

Fair enough. But I was also stunned. Years ago, my wife would have never considered DirecTV. Years before that, my mom would never have let me watch that much TV.

Even 32 years later, I'm still embarrassed to admit that my mom limited my TV watching when I was a kid. I was allowed one hour on weekdays, two hours on Saturday, and three on Sunday, so I could watch all the religious programming.

(See, if you knew me when I was a kid, that would be hilarious.)

Actually, it was because I was a big Star Trek geek when I was 10, and Channel 13 out of Indianapolis played Star Trek on Sundays. When I realized I was only getting two hours of Saturday morning cartoons, we switched the weekend schedule.

But that's not the embarrassing part. That came when I was in the fourth grade, and my school wanted to put televisions in the classrooms for educational purposes. Needless to say, some parents had a problem with this.

"TV in the classrooms? But our children watch TV for entertainment. Does that mean they'll be entertained in class? Our children will be watching cartoons during school hours!!" There were a lot of parents who were up in arms, and many of them descended on the next Parent-Teacher Organization (PTO) meeting en masse.

And guess whose mom was leading the anti-TV charge. If there was a Women's Television Temperance Union, my mom would have been the president. If Al Capone had sold bootleg TVs, my mom would have been kicking in doors and taking axes to TV sets with the FBI. (Not really, but when I was 10 years old, I believed otherwise.)

It wouldn't have been so bad, but my mom made me go with her to the PTO meeting. I thought I would die a thousand deaths when all my friends — whose moms had dragged them to the meeting too — saw my mom firmly entrenched in the anti-TV camp. Nothing could be more humiliating than this, I thought.

Oh, but wait, there's more, said Murphy, the patron saint of humiliation.

That's when my mom, in order to stress how unimportant TV is to the lives of children, stood up in a room full of nearly 100 people, including all my classmates, and announced loudly, "WE DON'T LET ERIK WATCH MORE THAN ONE HOUR OF TV PER DAY, AND THREE HOURS ON SATURDAYS." She even pointed back at me, to make sure all my friends knew who to laugh at the next day.

Now that I'm a parent, I'm just as careful with what my own kids watch. We only let them watch kids' shows on PBS, Nickelodeon, and Disney Channel.

"We only had four stations when I was a kid," I told them.

"You did?" they asked, astonished. "Was it in color?"

"Yes, and yes. And I could only watch an hour a day when I was your age."

"An hour?!" they said. They couldn't imagine seeing only one hour of their wonderful shows they knew and loved." "What did you do the rest of the time?"

"I spent that time reading and learning," I said. "So count yourselves lucky that you get to watch two hours a day."

"TWO HOURS?!" they shrieked. "But that's not very much."

"Do you want me to call Grandma?"


"Then go read a book." As they shuffled off to their rooms in search of something to read, I realized my mom may not have been as weird as I thought. I still only watch an hour or so a day, and I turned out pretty well.

Plus I never told 100 people that my kids can only watch two hours of TV a day.

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  1. Wow Erik, your parents were more lenient than I. We had cable briefly when it came to town in the early 80s. When I came home from an outing with my husband to my kids watching a "Jason" movie, cable TV went bye-bye, and we haven't had it since. The kids weren't allowed to watch TV during the school week, and we limited weekend TV to about 2 hours total. They weren't allowed to have TV in their rooms. Out of the 3, I have one kid who doesn't own a television. He's decided it's a time waster.

    Maybe he's right.

  2. See, THIS is exactly why you turned out so smart.

    A few weeks ago the most frequently watched television in our house inexplicably stopped working. Since that time our kids have been more compliant about getting their homework done, we've enjoyed more family conversations and our evenings end with decaf tea and a snack after which the kids read until they're sleepy (rather than ending with us trying to peel their eyes off yet another Disney Channel sit-com). I might never get the tv fixed! Then I don't have to join the Moms-Against-TV-Army. :)

  3. Well, I grew up in the 60's before cable and we had three stations. I rarely watched TV (although I have to confess I had a "thing" for Mary Ann on Gilligan's Island) largely because I did not have time. The neigborhood boys were too busy chasing rabbits, horned toads, and various lizards to fool with TV.


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