In 1949, 2 percent of homes in the United States had a television.
By 2007, 98 percent had a television.
–Parents Television Council
As a child I enjoyed television—all three stations (ABC, CBS, and NBC). When they were off the air they broadcast a screen that looked like one of these.
The stations did not broadcast all day and all night, which meant families had to find other ways to entertain themselves. My brothers and I generally played outdoors all summer and after homework until streetlights came on. We played pickup games of ice hockey, football, baseball and such with the neighborhood kids and we learned how to share, take turns, work in teams, win graciously, and lose graciously. We learned how to settle disputes among ourselves, rarely seeking the advice of adults. Kids who did not learn to play well with others became spectators.
We discovered how to defend ourselves and how to take a hit. Mom’s rule—mom was a lawyer—dictated that we were not allowed to throw the first punch, but we were entitled to fiercely defend ourselves. There were bullies, but such kids were basically cowards who quickly learned from us to find other targets. The bullies also discovered whom we would defend—friends and any kids smaller than the bullies.
We used our imaginations and created games of tag (on bikes, on skates, on skateboards, on ice skates). On the rare occasion we found large boxes, or spare boards, we built forts, treehouses and worlds of our own. Rainy days drove us indoors to play cards, cheer over board games, or read books.
According to the Parents Television Council children watch about 28 hours of television a week.
Four hours a day?! I understand that times have changed and it isn’t as safe as it once was for children to play outdoors, but WOW, is childhood best spent watching television? Four hours a day is enough time to learn a second language, or master a skill, learn to play an instrument, play a team sport, or read great books. Are children getting their times’ worth from television?
Frankly, I’m afraid to tally the hours per week I’ve shot on it. In light of the lowering standards in television, such as reality shows, violence, and its general reinforcement of heinous behavior, I have decided to conduct a one-year experiment.
I WILL NOT WATCH TELEVISION FOR ONE YEAR.
As my sports pals say, “Go big or go home.” As far as New Years’ resolutions go, this one feels BIG. So no television for me on the 65-inch screen in the living room, the laptop, the phone, the iPad, or any device. Cold turkey. Welcome to Zombies Anonymous. My name is Joni and I’m a television addict.
Will I miss Fox News and CNN putting their own take on current events? Gasp. Will I be forced to form my own opinions instead of being fed those of the broadcast media? Goodbye to the even-handed insights of Doctor Charles Krauthammer. Episodes of “Castle,” “CSI,” “Major Crimes,” and “The Librarians” will continue without me. Reruns of Harry Potter, Sabrina, and The Matrix will play on other people’s televisions.
Laugh if you must, but look around at children and teens hunched over tiny screens instead of interacting with the world around them. Last week I found two teenage girls in the same room texting messages to each other. As an adult, perhaps I should lead by example. Step away from the screen. Disconnect from the twenty-four-hour feed of violence, fantasy, and false realities shown on hundreds of channels.
What will I do with the time previously wasted staring at a blinking box? Time will tell. Wagers will be made among my friends as to how long I’ll last. I might learn a new language or write another novel, exercise more, read more, or take on more clients for my editing business. Each week I’ll post a blog to report on how it’s going.
Tomorrow is December 31, 2014, so pardon me while I binge on recordings stored on the DVR. Like Mardi Gras revelers celebrate in excess all the things to be given up for Lent, I intend to park on the sofa for one last, long viewing session.
What would you do with an extra four hours a day?