Free of TV: Less set in their ways Families develop away from the din

October 13, 1992|By Chicago Tribune

CHICAGO -- The "act of God," as Francis Harty calls it, struck when he and his wife, Lorree, were snuggled in their living room watching a small black-and-white television during a raging spring storm.

"Lightning just came in and the television just blew out -- poof! -- just like that," Lorree recalled. "It just made a white flash and sort of a pop, and that was it."

That was in 1978 in Hampshire, Ill. Today, the couple lives in Monticello, Ill. They still do not own a TV set.

For Christine Majer-Crosh and her three children, the critical day came in September in their Wilmette home. The TV set failed to illuminate, and the repair shop could not get the part until after the Labor Day weekend, leaving the family tubeless.

"It was such a nice weekend," Ms. Majer-Crosh said. "The house was a lot quieter, and there was a lot less fighting between the kids. I thought, 'Why am I going to pay $150 to have this thing fixed?' "

At a time when a poll says one in four adults would refuse to give up the TV set for $1 million, when the average American watches nearly seven hours a day and when there are nearly 200 million sets in U.S. homes, the Hartys and Majer-Croshes are among the 2 percent of households waging their own private war against the boob tube.

They are the Few. The Proud. The Unplugged.

So are the Lundbergs in Cicero. Phillip Lundberg said he decided to dump the family's TV set about 12 years ago when he, his wife and their two small children were living in De Kalb, Ill., and watching too much TV. They sold the set for about $50 to a relative.

"We feel strongly that watching television, particularly for young people, is harmful for their development, that it causes learning and behavior problems as well," Mr. Lundberg said.

Over the years, they have run into a few awkward moments, particularly when they are visiting friends who will turn on a TV set. And he acknowledged that his children -- Ken, 14, Matthew 12, and Diana, 9 -- now will watch TV at friends' homes at times.

But he bristles at the suggestion that his stance against &L television alienates him from society or makes him an oddball.

"I used to agree with that, only I could reverse it," Mr. Lundberg said. "I think humanity is alienated. They think I'm strange because I don't watch TV, but I think they're strange because they can sit in front of a TV and not find it insulting."

Yet, he has acquiesced to the tube. A few months ago, he lifted the TV ban from his oldest child, although Ken must go elsewhere to tune in. The family has not purchased a set.

"He's reached puberty," Mr. Lundberg said. "He has developed. He can distinguish between truth and fiction. I don't think younger people have the ability to step back and say, 'Hey that's not reality; that's just TV.' "

Parents who have dumped TV say their children have overcome the loss.

"It's not like my children have been angels or anything," Ms. Majer-Crosh said. "They still fight and they still bang heads."

But she added that she has noticed a more reflective side to her children -- Eric, 9, Claire, 5, and Graham, 2 -- the house is quieter, and "the kids are much more independent, in terms of entertaining themselves and doing things on their own."

Ms. Majer-Crosh and others say they keep up with world events by tuning in the radio or reading newspapers.

Added Lorree Harty: "Fran and I really talk a lot to each other, and I think that's really important

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