Abstinence Only? Not for my TV (or computer)

April 23rd marks the start of Turn off TV Week. Children across the nation will be pledging to abstain from viewing television for one week.The project is lead by TV-Turnoff Network, a non-profit organization with the goal of reducing the amount of TV children and adults watch.

Here is how they described themselves at their website:

TV-Turnoff Network is dedicated to the belief that we all have the power to determine the role that television plays in our own lives. Rather than waiting for others to make “better” TV, we can turn it off and reclaim time for our families, our friends, and for ourselves.

The site also provides many pages that vilify TV. Some pages claim TV causes violence, obesity, and ADD in today’s society.

TV-Turnoff Network doesn’t seem to have anything good to say about TV. How can a technology that inspired young scientists during the moon landings, made us laugh with Johnny Carson and helped us grieve during the September 11th attacks be so evil?

Like anything, TV has its problems when it is overused or misused but let’s not forget that it is a remarkable invention. TV is also a great educational tool. Growing up I watched many NOVA specials on PBS with my Dad. (As a matter of fact, there will be a brand new episode during Turn of TV Week.)

TV-Turnoff Network’s approach is all wrong. Simply pressing the off switch is not enough. TV is an important and powerful force in our society. You cannot turn your back on it. You must take it in warts and all. Set limits for children. Know what they’re watching. Know what lessons they’re learning.

TV is no longer the only important screen in our life. The status of computers has been elevated by the Internet. It won’t stop with computers. My new cell phone can display pictures, the Internet, TV shows, movies and more. Media will become ubiquitous. We will need to teach our children how to live in this world. I don’t believe slogans that basically tell you to close your eyes will help.