Monday, May 22, 2006

Cancel Your Cable TV (for the good of your children)

I know this will never catch on, but I believe that people should cancel their cable TV subscriptions.

Excessive cable television viewing has created an entire generation of children whose brains are wired differently. They don't read books because their brains can't slow down enough to create a space that is quiet enough for reading. I see it all the time and it's not pretty.

Television also actively promotes deviance: violence in various forms, passive aggressive behavior, drug use, sex, sex, and more sex...and it's all depicted as glamorous in American culture.

Well, it's not glamorous. It's disgusting. The only rational response is to shut it off, permanently, and find other things to do.

I was scanning the TV schedule this morning so I could write this column and I found that "judge shows" are rampant. So, from the comfort of our living rooms, we can peep into the legal lives of others and learn the lurid details of their dysfunctional lives. "Peeping" is not healthy, yet we publicize it, celebrate it, and teach our kids how to enjoy it.

[Then, there are the "cop" shows. We live in a country where the prison population, the largest in the world, topped 2.18 million recently. During a one-year period from 2004 to 2005, we imprisoned an average of 1085 people per week. But instead of expressing outrage, we sit at home and watch the arrests on TV. That's pretty screwed up, if you ask me.]

Aside from the prison issue, the best response by American citizens to this insane peep show is not only to shut off the TV and send the kids outside, but to eliminate the incredible money stream that is pumped into the cable TV industry.

I cancelled my cable TV subscription a few weeks ago (because it reached the point where I seldom watched TV), and I've never been happier. During the evening hours, I read (Joseph Campbell, Mickey Hart, James Hillman, Gary Zukav) listen to/play music, or converse with friends and family.

All of these activities are far better than sitting on the couch watching TV.

Now, I know that absolutely nobody will cancel their cable TV as a result of this column, but you can't blame me for trying.

I think our culture and community would be a lot better off if we turned off our TVs and, instead, held evening community rituals, such as bonfires, sing-alongs, color with the kids, basketball, indoor bocci--any of those activities. We have lost our communities in many ways because we all sit inside during the evening hours watching Survivor.

In closing, let me say that I have no hope that anyone will follow this advice, so I must resign myself to teaching another batch of children who suffer from ADHD and who have not read an entire book in their lives. It seems to me that these are the sad outcomes of a nation of children raised on cable TV.

Carry on.



Ralph said...

Doctor Dee:

TV is a great and very powerful medium. The problems it causes are in the way we choose to use it. TV's a great communication tool and can definitely teach a lot to children, but because of its power, it must be monitored very closely. Watching a quality show and then discussing it, is actually a great community building experience, as are things like Survivor parties. In many ways, the TV is the modern bonfire.

That said, when children are allowed unsupervised access to shows with adult themes, it's not doing anyone any good. These shows are not meant to be viewed by children, but, unlike books that are not meant to be viewed by kids, are still diciperable by kids who get a misconstrued message from them.

And, as a parent, I'll tell you, it's very hard to control what your kid tunes in on the TV, unless your on top of them all the time. And TV does serve as a great babysitter, so it's very tempting to just allow the kid unfettered access so they are not bothering you to entertain them. This is where many of the problems start. Cutting off your cable is a good way to reduce the number of channels your child has access to, which makes it easier for you to monitor them- I think, although just having a fewer number of TVs in the house is probably even more effective. It also gives you less to watch on TV and encourages more diverse types of interaction with your children.

Yes, remember, guns don't kill people... Right, you get the point.


Bobbo said...

TV has made people fat and lazy, too.

And with DVR, people can watch EVERYTHING they want.

Currently, my apartment has cable but when I move in with someone else soon, we're not getting it.

I watch NBC all the time anyway. I'll miss not having the choices of channels, but when I have them, I end up on NBC anyway.

DocTorDee said...


I've heard the "TV has positive aspects" argument before. In fact, I've said as much myself.

However, humans have trouble finding the middle ground that you advocate. Children ARE allowed to watch shows with adult themes; parents DO use TV as a babysitter.

That's why I say "Cancel Your Cable."

As for the notion that TV is like a modern bonfire: Isn't it sad that we have chosen to allow simulated experience to replace actual experience?

A torch, burning on the TV screen, provokes the mythic imagination and that's why we watch. However, make no mistake: the image you see on TV is not the same as the actual experience of lighting a flame, maintaining a flame, transporting a flame, and feeling the heat of the flame.

We have become, as the French philosopher Beaudrillard says, a nation devoted to the notion of simulacra. Simulacra is the term he uses to represent the hundreds of simulated experiences that Americans pursue.

I will write more about Beaudrillard in an upcoming column.


Jim Lichtenwalter said...

My sister will not even own a tv set because it is too easy to go home, turn on the tv and do nothing. It has done wonders for my nicec!!


Ralph said...


To take my bonfire analogy a step further, I'm not comparing a bonfire on the TV to a real life bonfire - rather I am comparing the attraction of the light of the TV to the attraction of the light of the bonfire. Both can entrance you for hours, and if done in a group, or a virtual group, both can lead to good converstation. In TV's case, it could be during a baseball game, for example, or at the water cooler the next day.

I'm going to go a step further and compare TV to cocaine. Yes, both are very hard to manage correctly, but if you have the werewithal to pull it off, but can provide positive benefits.

Right. (I may have said too much.)