Wednesday, January 10, 2001
I had the first-time occasion to pick up my little nephew from preschool last week. When I asked him how his day at school was, he told me that he didn't like school. While I wondered what could possibly be so bad about preschool, he spelled it out for me. He said he didn't like school because there's no TV there.
This all reminded me of my own love/hate relationship with television. While I was growing up, I thought my parents were beyond unreasonable when it came to TV. My sister and I weren't allowed to watch whatever we wanted, whenever we wanted. In fact, we were hardly allowed to watch very much television at all. And whatever we did watch had to meet the stringent parental standards. Although we were members of the television generation, we were effectively excluded from it. I thought it was terribly unfair. In some ways, their approach temporarily backfired, because it made me want to watch it even more. So whenever I had the chance, if I were spending the night at a friend's house, for example, I would indulge in marathon television-viewing. Then when I was about 9 or 10, my luck turned particularly bad. Our home was burglarized, and one of the things that was stolen was the TV. I think our parents waited almost a year before they replaced it.
Now, I'm thankful my parents were so strict and that TV wasn't very accessible to me. I think that television teaches people especially the young and impressionable a lifestyle. They learn to rely on something, anything outside of themselves, to entertain their vapid minds. How likely is it that a child will pick up a book on their own or make up their own game if the remote control is within easy reach? As a result of my upbringing, I spent a lot of time with my nose in a book and learned to love reading. It probably made me a better student, too. Television also seems to have a way of teaching people to be couch potatoes. Even if that's not really how they want to be, it just has a way of sucking them in. Now, I drift in and out of my phases where I watch a lot of television, or hardly any at all. I'm guilty of getting sucked in, just like everyone else.
It's a wonder to me that the content of television programs nowadays seems to be of more concern to parents and people in general today especially since the Columbine tragedy than the medium itself. Television is such a fixture in Americans' lifestyles, that we don't seem able to fathom living without it. Have you ever tried to imagine how different your life would be if you weren't watching TV every day or several times per week? It wouldn't necessarily change for the worse. Studies show that people communicate more with one another and participate more in the world around them when they aren't habitual television viewers.
But, as long as that is the case, it is right that people should be concerned about what their kids can tune into so easily. Sometimes I'm dismayed by the violence, carnage, sex, scandal, social deviance, sensationalism and lack of realism on television programs, but nonetheless, it draws me in. I believe television is rife with these elements because they pique our human interest and curiosity. We seem to be curious about and attracted to that which reviles us the most.
As for my nephew, he may be overly fascinated with TV right now because he doesn't have free reign of the remote control, much like his mother and I when we were kids. And I know that he doesn't honestly dislike school. He may like for us to think that, but he loves to be there and interact with all of his new friends, and he's constantly showing off all of his newly discovered knowledge. But I think it's a kid thing it just wouldn't be cool to admit liking school.