An increasing number of studies show that television is bad for kids. As one of those parents who is guilty of clicking on the set to pacify my critter — I used to pride myself that letting my toddler watch cartoons was a humane, enlightened alternative to duct taping her to a chair — I decided to look a little deeper into the issue.
According to many studies, the more television a kid watches, the more weight he gains, the lower his test scores, and the more likely he is to be violent and have behavioral problems. The result is that since the onset of television, our population has slowly been evolving into a nation of big, fat morons. Vicious ones.
Startled by the image of a herd of Anna Nicole Smiths thundering angrily through the streets, enraged by the scandals interfering with the credibility of American Idol contest proceedings, I dropped my Big Mac with a cry and lunged over to turn off the television set.
My husband, John, sighed patiently. "What now?"
"Trim Spa is not the answer!" I shrieked at him. "We've got to get rid of the television set!"
He stared at me for a long moment, then asked, "How many cups of coffee have you had this morning?" "Just four." After that last incident where I drank two pots of coffee, then threw out all his underwear because I was suddenly terrified the elastic in the waistbands could contribute to birth defects, John likes to keep tabs on my caffeine intake.
"Well, whatever, then. It's not like I can watch the Lakers in the playoffs this year anyway."
I rushed to the telephone and called up our cable provider. "Cancel everything!" I told the guy.
"You're switching service?" he asked, confused.
"No! Quick, my pants are feeling tighter! Cancel our service!!"
"Ma'am, I'm afraid I don't follow you."
Oh, god. The television had gotten to him, too! "We just don't want TV any more! Please, turn it off!"
"Well, whatever," he said, bemused but not impolite. "We'll have someone by tomorrow morning to pick up the cable box."
"It's done!" I turned to John and let out a deep sigh of relief. "Tomorrow morning will be the last of it."
Like some sort of deathbed vigil, we stayed sat beside the television set all that afternoon. We watched craft shows like "Navel Lint Creations" and Sci-Fi Channel classics like "Mansquito". After three, when the kids get out of school, we watched cartoons with our daughter and saw ads for "MTV2" on Nickelodeon.
"Aren't music videos extremely violent and raunchy?" I asked my husband.
"Yep," he said.
"Why are they advertising on a channel for little kids?"
"Same reason tobacco companies target kids," he said and flipped the channel to Cartoon Network. Our daughter protested, then cheered up — two shows that really appeal to little girls were on back to back. As we watched, sandwiched in between them was an ad for Trim Spa, starring Anna Nicole Smith.
"Aren't these shows targeted to seven- to twelve-year-old girls?" I asked my husband.
"Yep," he said, leaning over and giving our daughter a kiss. "Which is why I don't mind you going overboard on the coffee and canceling our cable service. Even though football pre-season is coming up."
Three weeks of nothing but carefully approved and strictly rationed videos later, the experiment is a big success. Well, from my standpoint. Lillian was annoyed at first, but has nicely adapted to amusing herself. My husband is suffering a little more, though.
"If I have to watch that Cats video one more time, I'm going to strangle myself with a leg warmer. That show is so stupid!" John grumbled, "Was it really one of the longest running plays on Broadway?"
"Not into Andrew Lloyd Weber or T.S. Eliot, huh?"
"No, it's the stupid prancing around in tights," he huffed. "I've never seen the point of that sort of thing — ooo, look!" He stopped and pointed at the screen. "That's Jo Gibb! I hear she's been performing in Disney's Beauty and the Beast. She has such a pretty voice. We need to see if she has a CD out."
"Not into theatre, huh?" I grinned at him.
"Hey, if you're going to pick on me, we can just get the television back."
But he was only teasing. None of us really want to.
Comments and life-after-TV testimonials to Alex.Queen@gmail.com.
This article first appeared in the Manteca (Calif.) Bulletin.