Jewish World Review Sept. 20, 2002 / 15 Tishrei, 5763

Lori Borgman

Lori Borgman
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Consumer Reports

"Cutting the Cord" to the Tube | If the statistic is true - that the average child watches between three and four hours of television a day - I'm wondering when the kids have time for anything fun.

After all, the physical challenge of watching television is that you must sit still and keep your mouth quiet. When you think about it, watching television isn't all that different from being in time out.

How many kids would volunteer to spend three to four hours in time out each day? Exactly. So what are they doing parked in front of the tube?

It would be far more expedient for the average parent to condense the average child's viewing to one day instead of spreading it over an entire week. Three and a half hours a day is about 24 hours a week; why not give up one day a week to the tube? (I'm working on a catchy bumper sticker phrase, something like All Tube Tuesday.) A weekday would mean missing school, but oh well, who has time for homework when you're parked before the set for hours on end?

The kids I really feel sorry for are the ones with over-achieving parents, the ones who can't be happy with an average three and four hours a day, so they let the kids watch for six and seven.

"No, I'm not taking you to the library! You're going to sit there and watch that Anna Nicole Smith woman whether you get her or not!"

Unfortunately for our children, they were raised below average. When the three of them were in grade school, we set a no-television-during-the-week policy - a policy which many will tell you falls under the cruel-and-unusual punishment clause in the eighth amendment.

When we eventually subscribed to basic cable, we told the kids there would be no MTV. More of that cruel and unusual business. We said it would rot their brains, and being that we were from the same gene pool, we knew they didn't have a lot of brain cells to spare.

We expected them to be honest and not watch MTV. And if they were dishonest, they'd better be quick, because the first time we saw it on, we would do an Aunt Carol. The mere mention of the name made the tykes shudder.

My Aunt Carol, also known as Carol the Cutter, would cut the cord to the television if she arrived home and found her two daughters had not practiced their musical instruments, but had been watching television. (You can tell by feeling whether the set is warm.)

These were the days when the girls would have been watching tame fare like "Leave it to Beaver" reruns or the "Merv Griffin Show," but the point was television was taking time away from valuable activities.

Aunt Carol cut the cord many times. I have fond memories of my uncle kneeling by the set, rewiring the cord so he could watch "Lawrence Welk" or "Bonanza," shows that would have trouble getting prime-time ratings today unless of course, the Lennon sisters dressed in black leather short shorts and Ben Cartwright visited a brothel on his weekly trips to town.

My cousins learned to play nearly every instrument in the string section and one became a professional musician. Cord cutting, although it too probably falls under the cruel and unusual punishment clause, paid off nicely.

If you find yourself in a home where the television drones and your children have developed average viewing habits, slack-jaws and glassy eyes, I offer the wisdom of my Aunt Carol: Snip it in the bud.

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JWR contributor Lori Borgman is the author of I Was a Better Mother Before I Had Kids. To comment, please click here.

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© 2001, Lori Borgman