I can still remember our first TV as a kid. It was a black and white RCA in a simple wood cabinet. It took a few minutes for the tubes to warm up before viewing. I recall shows like The Three Stooges and I Love Lucy. Bonanza was on Sunday evenings and our family knew that most likely our neighbors, chicken farmers, would show up for a “visit” just as it was about to come on. Leave It To Beaver and Dennis The Menace were full of fun and mischief. There was a talking horse, Mr. Ed. It was a time when most any show being broadcasted could be watched by any age group. There was an air of innocence, as a family, watching and laughing on the grey, itchy and uncomfortable couch. Hollywood hadn’t yet figured out how it could mold and shape the minds of America with its rolling images. There were no studies released on the harmful effects upon children or culture by viewing too much TV versus completing homework assignments or reading a book. In my house, the television came on only in the evening and you could partake if you had successfully proven your chores and your homework were finished.
In the book, Amusing Ourselves to Death, author Neil Postman writes, “It is a wise and particularly relevant presupposition that the media of communication available to a culture are a dominant influence on the formation of the culture’s intellect and social preoccupations.” He makes the argument that the more we as a society move away from the written word, study and memorization, the more illiterate we become by consuming nothing but entertainment through the medium of television. He shares that this medium of communication does not require any form of thinking and in the end television programing becomes the cultures principle way of knowing about itself. (Written in 1985, I wonder what the author might say about the internet today?)
Current statistics tell us that children spend more time with the television than they spend in school. This certainly wasn’t true when my wife and I were raising our children and I hope it’s not true for your home. Turn it off, play a game, read a book, put a puzzle together, help your children learn something new by telling stories and interacting with them. You will never regret it.