Letters keep arriving in response to our recent invitation to readers to tell us how they've dealt with TV viewing. We ran a full page last Thursday, and add a second, final, installment today. All letters were read with interest. We regret that space doesn't allow publication of all of them. Thanks, Mom When my son was in the 7th grade I set down this rule. During the school term, he could watch TV only one hour a day and limited hours on weekends. The first thing that became apparent was that he had much more time to gravitate toward his schoolwork and he began to take a genuine interest in his studies.
Two things helped make this rule work successfully on through his high-school years. One, it was kindly flexible. If he wanted to watch the basketball playoffs or a good movie, he did. Secondly, I didn't ask him to do anything I wouldn't do, so I limited my viewing, too. This spring, he graduated from college. Amid the festivities, engineering degree in hand, he whispered, ``Thanks, Mom, for turning off the TV.'' This one act has enriched our lives more than words can say.
DeWitt, N.Y. Only watch away from home
Our family has one simple rule for TV: Watch TV only with others away from home. Watching with others encourages the discussions that experts recommend. Your host is likely to open the discussion with an apology for the program not being ``as good as usual,'' so prepare a few gracious remarks.
Everyone tells us, ``It's stupid not to have a TV. You miss so much good programming.'' It's true, we don't see the nature shows about finches from halfway aruond the world, we don't hear simulcast concerts, we don't watch the playoffs. But we do see the finches in our feeder, we make music together, and we play catch.
Sebastopol, Calif. Children's play reappears
After six years in the country without any television, we moved to a town with cable TV. Overwhelmed mildly expresses how I felt watching our three children (ages 8, 6, and 4) glued to the TV watching afternoon cartoons. The violence expressed both physically and verbally was frightening. Our design to ``use'' cartoons at least Saturday morning to allow us to ``sleep in'' until 9 a.m. backfired. When given TV freedom, the kids began to wake up at 6 or 6:30 just to watch television!
ENOUGH! TV control began! One-half hour of TV maximum on weekdays after school. The three children decide together on which one show they will watch together. We all watch the Bill Cosby show together on Thursday evening. No Saturday or Sunday cartoons at all. Certainly, special quality programs are allowed and enjoyed when worthwhile. PBS shows like Reading Rainbow, Sesame Street, and Mr. Rogers are watched intermittently.
Like magic, our children's interactive play re-appeared. Blankets once again became rafts for trips around the world. School games, prince and princesses, going to the bank games, little people games ... the joy of children's natural creative play surfaced again!
Dawn Hughes Peck
Lexington, Va. How to survive without TV
Although we do not have children to monitor, my wife and I gave up watching television 10 years ago just before I retired, and we still do not have a TV set in our home here on Cape Cod.
How do we survive without it? We read books; I write letters - to many friends and ``To the Editor''; I bicycle; my wife gardens; we hike and canoe together. For entertainment we listen to public radio, enjoying both classical and jazz music. For information and news we tune in to ``All Things Considered'' every night at five; we read the Monitor every day and subscribe to several informative magazines.... We have no need for television.
We do, however, have two friendly neighbors who occasionally invite us to join them to see and hear special video presentations on their large TV.
Robert D. Peakes
Brewster, Mass. A dollar for every TV-less day
``How about a dollar for every non-TV day?'' Our teenage son accepted the challenge early this spring: He is saving for an expensive racing bike. As the dollars piled up, our son learned to include enough study time to improve his grades. The hours viewing other's lives and experiences on ``sit-coms'' were replaced with self-confidence in accomplishment and ``finding himself.''
Not watching programs with our son reduced our viewing time immensely. I found time to develop a viable plan for organizing research for writing. My husband turned more to [the radio] for news, read more, and snacked less.... Evening meals without television were enhanced with questions and better conversation. I'm no longer a nag!
Our son has accumulated 100 dollar bills in three and a half months. With gratitude, we are ready with dollar bills, if needed, to encourage more non-television days during the coming summer vacation period.
Maralee Lupien Burdick
Sherman Oaks, Calif. No TV, no boredom
Television, invader of peace, conversation, time to think. The children were glued to it. ``No, Mom, not now. Cartoons are on!'' My husband, normally quiet and patient, bellowed ``QUIET!'' at the kids so he could hear the evening news. As a former elementary school teacher, I began questioning the real value of time spent just WATCHING a screen.
A developed roll of film with a snapshot of our son and his cousin watching TV revealed expressions of emptiness, mouths fallen open, eyes vacant, in contrast to their normally bright, intelligent appearance. We went COLD TURKEY. The TV was put in the basement, covered with an old sheet. The children, ages three and five, began finding things to do. Using their imaginations they made up original games and invented new projects. We began weekly trips to the library to refurbish a large stack of books. My husband caught the news on the radio and read books in the evening. We took the kids to performances at local schools....
``I'm bored'' or ``I don't have anything to do'' were comments that were never heard while we were without TV. This lasted for two years.
Then, after having seen live performances of ``The Nutcracker Suite'' the previous two years, our daughter was disappointed that we didn't have tickets that year. So we brought the TV up from the basement. It has stayed up.
Having experienced the benefits of enriched family life without TV, we limit TV viewing as much as possible. MacNeil/Lehrer for Dad on weekdays and only special programs on weekends. A few programs that are aired during homework hours are recorded using the VCR for later viewing.
Fairfield, Conn. Is it worth getting the TV out?
Like so many of our generation, we grew up glued to the tube. Husband was weaned after two television-less years in the Peace Corps. Wife was freed during a particularly demanding master's degree program that left little time for TV. Having kicked the habit, we were smug and self-righteous to our TV-viewing brethren. But slowly, television viewing became a relaxing after-dinner activity.
Then twin babies burst upon the scene 10 months ago. Their curiosity and growing reach forced a move for the TV. It ended up dusty, forelorn, and unplugged on the top closet shelf. Viewing is still possible, but we have to get the TV out first. This arrangement forces us to consciously choose to view TV. We ask ourselves, ``Is a program really worth the bother of getting the TV out?''
Fewer hours are now spent in front of the tube. Cooking together as a family and the great outdoors have become much more important.
Well folks, gotta run, the twins have a pots and pans orchestra going in the kitchen.