TV for kids: It's a menace ...

August 23, 1999|By Kate Baggot

TELEVISION reminds me of microwave dinners and my father passed out in his reclining chair with a cigar hanging out the side of his mouth. Memories of children's television and Saturday morning cartoons leave me with a strange empty feeling in my stomach.

I watched TV alone most of the time, when there was nobody around.

I don't watch much television any more. I decided a couple years ago that I could be doing more productive things in my spare time than sitting in front of a box zoning out on the screen. It made me depressed and lazy.

ABC television recently launched an advertising campaign urging viewers to tune in with statements such as "don't worry, you've got billions of brain cells" and, "Eight hours a day, that's all we ask." This was supposed to be dark humor, but I did not find it very amusing.

I live with people who spend all day, every day, shoveling powder up their noses and staring at the boob tube.

I know kids who can't sleep without the television on. At one time, I couldn't sleep without sound in the background.

I eventually weaned myself off it when I figured out that in the silence I thought too much, worried too much about life, and my problems seemed to overwhelm me.

TV was a distraction; it numbed my mind -- like drugs, the Internet, video games, and any number of other devices we've invented so we could stop thinking, or feeling, or acting.

Why do anything about the decline of Western civilization when you can watch it, safely, from a distance, from your living room, on the 10 o'clock news?

I grew up around disempowered, disillusioned, tired people. Sometimes, I would confront my parents or their friends about why they talked so much and never did anything. They could never answer me except to say that the reality was that they could never change anything.

I think most of us believe we have no voice, no pull. Either people don't know how to organize or they just don't have the motivation.

I hear people insisting that they are too busy -- the same people who watch six hours of television every night. This is their time to unwind, relax, and forget -- not to take on the world.

The world is not a pretty place. I walk down the street and I see people dying, people being violated, people violating themselves, people selling themselves.

I see fiends screaming at tin cans, pushing valium, pulling out the remains of their last functional tooth.

Everybody suffers, not everyone is strong enough to endure it. TV, for some, fills the space in between.

I don't blame "American culture" for copping out. I think it's a natural response to take shelter anywhere yyou can find it -- even at the expense of your mind. If we are to attack television we are essentially attacking ourselves. And the fact of the matter is we enjoy television.

It's OK to do things that make us happy but, at the same time, I think it's important to identify and admit our crutches. If you are conscious of what TV does to you and you continue to partake in the viewing of it, that's different than pretending that it's a healthy or productive pastime.

Kate Baggot, 17, dropped out of school at 15 and lives on her own in Oakland, Calif. This piece was distributed by Pacific News Service.

What about you?

The Center for Media Education says American children watch an average of three hours of television a day. But the American Pediatric Association recently said children under two should never watch the tube. Who's right? What are the rules in your house? Tell us in 250 words or less and we'll print an edited selection of the responses. Send them to: Op-Ed Editor, The Sun, P.O. Box 1377, Baltimore 21278-0001

Pub Date: 08/23/99

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