"Just Say No"
Gwen Spencer

Imagine this April your kids come home from school and the TV is gone.

What would happen?

What would they say?

April is "Turn off the TV Month" and thechallenge has been put to every parent: Kill Your TV. Kids ave all been bombarded with the slogan "Just Say No to Drugs" but have failed to catch the irony hat the message is being propounded by the most pervasive and dangerous drug on the planet:

TV. It's the drug in the living room.

If you don't believe that TV is a drug, try this test: Take a pair of sharp scissors, and cut the plug off the TV . (Most homes have 3.4 TVs and 2.3 children, more than enough for everyone). Watch the children (and adults) as they go "cold turkey" They will exhibit every major symptom of grief and of drug withdrawal: pleading, bargaining, anger, rage, sweats, agitation, increased anxiety, seeking out TV in other people's homes, at school, etc. It will cost you about $15 to get the plug rewired, if you should be so inclined.

Most kids take about ten days to detox from a lifetime of 22 hours a week of drug intake. It's not a pretty sight.

When kids have access to unlimited amounts of TV they do not engage in active physical play; they sit immobilized in front of the TV. During TV watching, they do not read; they sit staring at an image scanned on the screen for them.

During this TV wasteland time, they see murder, mayhem, rape, pillage and plunder in a relentless stream.

If you want to try an interesting way to limit the TV watching in your family, try this rule: you can watch TV until there is an act of violence; then the TV goes off for the rest of the day. The kids get to watch an average of 7 minutes of TV each time they turn it on.

Preschoolers who sit in front of the tube, even during so-called benign shows like Sesame Street and Mr. Rogers, are still sitting in front of the tube when they ought to be playing, exhibiting active engagement with their environment and fellow living creatures, not sucking electronic stimulation from the great teat of TV.

School-age kids who sit in front of the tube are NOT reading, are NOT attending to homework, are NOT actively engaging with adults in conversation as long as they watch TV. Adults who sit in front of the tube do NOT read to their children, do NOT play with the children, do NOT engage in meaningful dialog with kids, except when they are given "permission" during commercial breaks.

Most honest folks will admit that once the TV goes on, it doesn't get turned off until the 10 o'clock news is over. On Saturdays, it disgorges 8 to 15 hours of endless commercial pitches aimed at kids. Kids don't really understand that it is the TV's job to get you to buy stuff you don't need.

TV is as pervasive and seductive as any drug on the planet. Marie Winn, author of "The Plug In Drug" points out how kids who sit endlessly in front of television exhibit greater violence, greater aggression in school, less motivation to read, less energy to do outdoor things. In "Remote Control:A Sensible Approach to Kids, TV and the Electronic Media", the argument is powerfully made that kids have gotten control of TV watching and will engage in all sorts of aggressive behaviors to have access to it. In "Getting Unplugged": Take Control of Your Family's Television, Video Game, and Computer Habits" by Joan Anderson (author of "Breaking the TV Habit") and Robin Wilkins, readers learn a four-week strategy that helps kids and grownups get back in control of their electronic addictions. There are ideas for replacing screen time with constructive, interactive non-electronic activities. Instead of giving up, as so many parents do, this wonderful book will give you the courage and the wherewithal to fight the seemingly omnipotent giant with one eye.

It will arm you with facts and figure to take the April Without TV Challenge. If the rhetoric doesn't do it, remember there's always that pair of scissors. Give your kids a chance to kick the habit. Try a month without TV.

Bet you can't do it.

Gwynne Spencer invites your feedback at PO Box 30307, Abq 87190 or by E-mail at PenGwynneS@aol.com.