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It cannot be disputed that television brings a myriad of wonderful things into our households. It offers children a wide variety of excellent early learning programs such as Sesame Street and many others. Television also can bring broader educational presentations via the National Geographic, Animal Planet, Discovery, and other learning-oriented and educational channels. However, if we do not exercise good parental judgment, it can rob our families of many critical components.

To many families, television has become an addiction. It has become too often our baby sitter, and our almost constant companion. It goes on when we wake up in the morning and off when we retire for the night. It is amazing to me when sometimes I ask someone why they are watching some idiotic program and they respond, "There is nothing else on!" Really! There is nothing on that you want to see – but you must have it on anyway! We are coming very close here to defining an addiction.  

Some weekend day, try leaving the television off for the entire day and see if you begin to suffer withdrawal symptoms! You probably will and hopefully that will start you thinking a bit.

Television is one of the few media that robs your child of any imagination or creative process. You have the visual images, color, motion, and sound. What is there left to imagine? This is completely unlike books or even radio where imagination at some level is required.  

It is a shame to watch children sitting in front of a television like little robots hour after hour watching the mindless garbage that is being presented. It is no wonder that America is gradually being dumbed down well below most other major countries.

There are two issues that should be considered; quality and quantity. Generally, television programming is packed full of violence and sex. That is what sells. Remember that most programming is supported by sponsors that want to sell you something. In order to sell you something – they have to lure you into watching their supported programs. That's what "series" are about – keeping you coming back.  

They also play a major role in promoting "a television in every room" – which now includes one for the kitchen, dining area, and even the bathroom. "Keep them watching" is always the goal. It would be fair to say that 90% of programming is pure garbage. Mindless programming chocked full of violence and sexual innuendos.  

Did you ever really watch the cartoons that are shown now? Is that really what you want your child exposed to day after day? Do you even know what your child watches? Most televisions have time and content security functions to help you control what your child watches. Do you use them?

Your child may not know who the president is – or anything about nature – but they can tell you everything about who is on American Idol this week, what Hanna Montana is doing this week, and the latest cereal or toy craze.

More disturbing to me are the quantity issues. It is all of the things your child is not  doing when they are glued to the television.  

These are some of the major things that television is robbing you and your child of. In many cases, gone are the days when the child plays outside every day with their friends. Is it any wonder that our children are obese, out of physical shape, and often show poor social and interactive skills?  

More and more meals are eaten in the living area where everyone can watch the television. The family discussions and interactions around the dining table are rapidly fading away. It is also increasingly common after dinner for the child to head for their room where they can watch "their shows" on their own television. Does your young child have a television in their room? If so – get rid of it!

Do you ever take your child to a bookstore? Or read to them and discus the story? Or buy them a book? It is sad that recent studies indicate that 98% of high school children will never enter a bookstore or read a book again. Is it any wonder that our kids have little appreciation of literature, history, science, or the world around them?

One of the things that I remember very well were the wonderful times when I took my young daughter camping. We would spend hours just talking. Why? Because I never took a portable television or radio with us! We would walk around the little towns together and discuss everything - and nothing. They were grand times.

So – what can a parent do? I have a few simple suggestions. Remember that every suggestion will not fit every situation
-Remove the television from your child's room

-Remove televisions from stupid places like kitchens and bathrooms

-Try to eat as a family at the dining table where you can actually talk to each other

-Limit your child's television to two hours per school day and four hours on weekend days

-Use the parental controls on your television

-Watch what your child watches sometimes. You may be surprised at what you see.

-Read to your child and buy them a book sometimes

-Guide your child outside to play on a regular basis

-Take your child into bookstores sometimes and let them pick out a book for themselves

I saved the hardest suggestion for last. Remember that you are always the role model for your child. You cannot expect your child to enjoy or follow any of these suggestions when they see you glued to the television all day and all evening. Sorry – but that is just the way it is. You may want to think about breaking - or at least reducing - your own addiction.

Television can be a wonderful addition to your family – or a subtle thief that will rob you of many important family things. If you don't control it – it will gradually control you!

**James is a Masters level Child Psychologist and Internationally Certified Alcohol and Drug Counselor who has worked with distressed families for 40 years. He is the author of the Seamus the Sheltie series of children's books that were designed to assist parents in discussing difficult issues with younger children. Both books have received multiple national awards from parenting organizations. Mr. Beverly has written and published articles on parenting in a variety of media.


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