'I'd like you to meet my good friend, TV'

Lunching with a couple, the talk drifted naturally to movies and TV shows: What have you seen? What did you like? How late will you stay up to watch the Oscars telecast?

Their daughter, a college student who had joined us, stayed quiet. When asked her opinion, she replied, "So, you're talking about your 'friends' again."

Whoops. Caught up short by the next generation.

Yes, there's a whole lot more to life than checking up on celebrities and living in the make-believe worlds Hollywood puts on our screens, big or small. Do I know Tony Soprano's family better than my next-door neighbor's? Is pondering whether Julia Roberts's dazzling yet self-effacing persona at the Oscars was genuine - or merely a case of good acting - really a topic worth my time?

A recent Associated Press story looked at families that have chucked their TV sets, or at least severely limit watching. The children in these families seem to be more creative and have a broader and deeper understanding of the world, according to their teachers.

"It's not as if we can or even want to shelter them totally from popular culture," said Carol Begley, a mother of three young boys. "We want them to have room in their hearts, room in their lives, for something that's better."

She is also concerned that TV might intrude on the family's commitment to spiritual growth.

"So much inimical to a life of faith is on TV," she told the AP. "I think it's easier for a child to learn to pray and have a spiritual life if he's not living a life of electronic distractions."

Yes, TV can at times be wonderful. Yet it's hard to argue with parents who decide to click it off.

Write to the Arts & Leisure section at entertainment@csps.com.

(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Monitor

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