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Ten Reasons to Wean Children from Television

  • Lori Borgman Contributing Writer
  • 2005 12 Jul
Ten Reasons to Wean Children from Television

Speaking from experience, withdrawal takes between seven and 10 days. That would be withdrawal from television.

When the kids were in elementary school, we implemented a no-television-during-the-week policy. Initially, they experienced mild restlessness and irritability. After a week and a half, they were fine.

The only one still experiencing mild restlessness and irritability was me, but as the kids would tell you that was nothing new.

Shortly after we implemented the policy, I shuttled a load of kids home from school when a boy asked my son if he was going to watch a particular program that evening. My son replied that he couldn't watch television during the week.

His buddy choked, gasped for air, turned purple and said, "I'd HATE that!" He offered my son heart-felt sympathies and six remaining Fritos.

When the kid got home, he ran straight in the front door and told his mother about our strange television policy. A week later she instituted it.

A Kaiser Family Foundation survey on media and youth found that roughly half of all families have rules regarding television viewing -- but only 20 percent of parents enforce them. (Tsk, tsk. Does someone need a time out?)

For those of you who haven't enforced viewing restrictions, I offer 10 good reasons why you should.

Reason No. 1: When selling real estate, the mantra is location, location, location. When growing children, the mantra is time, time, time. On average, kids between 8 and 18 spend almost four hours a day parked in front of the set, glazed over, watching television or videos. If you need more family time, the best place to find it is between the plug and the wall outlet.

Reason No. 2: There's nothing good on. Oh, once in a while there is, but that's why you have a VCR and a 10-year-old who can tape it for you.

Reason No. 3: Television cultivates short attention spans. As someone who taught visual communication to college students for 10 years, I've long said the first thing every parents of children with attention deficit disorder should do is to turn off the tube. Quick cuts, jarring camera angles and constantly moving frames do not cultivate the ability to concentrate.

Reason No. 4: Kids today may have the foulest mouths ever. Parents Television Council attributes it to television citing a 98 percent increase in cursing during the so-called family hours over a four-year period.

Reason No. 5: The act of watching television is the act of doing nothing. There is a fine line, and a lot of body fat, between watching Veggie Tales and becoming a veggie tale.

Reason No. 6: Your children will speak better English. Actors talk in fragments. "Your place?" "Mine." "Latte?" "Espresso." "Court date?" "Cancelled." Today's children need more fruits and vegetables, regular exercise, and subjects and predicates.

Reason No. 7: A child who puts forward even a half-baked effort at homework doesn't have four hours to park in front of the set every night.

Reason No. 8: By not feeding on a steady diet of garbage, a child is more likely to develop discernment and, as an adult, be better equipped to distinguish between worthwhile and waste of time.

Reason No. 9: Television forces pseudo-sophistication on kids. Children have the right to be spared loss of innocence brought about by Friends reruns with porn jokes, smutty music videos and Sex in the City.

Reason No. 10: Peace and quiet. Our policy had an exclusion clause for parents. We occasionally watched television during the week and simply explained to the kids, "It's OK, our brains are fully formed and we already did our homework."

Columnist and speaker Lori Borgman is the author several books including  Pass the Faith, Please (Waterbrook Press) and I Was a Better Mother Before I had Kids  (Atria). Comments may be sent to her at