Seeking Progressive Social Change
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Just say no to commerical TV!

If I could change any one thing, I would…

Keep corporate entertainment away from my kids.

I’ve really had it with the corporate media’s entertainment bread and circuses. My kids are unplugged for the most part and I hope to keep it that way. Today they’re fun-loving, confident children; why should I watch as their self-worth is destroyed by their worrying over how thin they are, or how thick their lips are, or other meaningless trivialities? The sexualization of young girls in the media is truly frightening for anyone with children. It can lead to all kinds of psychological disorders, according to the APA. But honestly, we don’t need a press release to understand these things.

smash your TVI want my children to take pride in their capabilities. I want them to be mindful about things that matter, about how kind they are, about how they should treat their friends. These values are mostly absent from anything that pops out of the tube or sits on the magazine rack at the checkout counter. They’re certainly missing from commercial entertainment.

Spend an hour with corporate entertainment and the one thing that you walk away with is the cheapness of everything. It’s everywhere, in the snide, snappy, mean-spirited digs in commercials or sitcoms; in many movies, which have “gun tracks” instead of music tracks – how many murders can one person watch in two hours? This cheapness leaves the impression that “nothing really matters”. But things DO matter. There really are implications to our actions. When you live in a commercial-infused TV reality, it’s very easy to lose sight of this.

Corporate advertisers know exactly what they’re doing; they go after our kids, exploiting young minds who’ve yet to develop the skills to understand that advertising is not “the truth” but rather a manipulation. Advertisers recognize this phenomenon and even boast about doing it. When you manipulate minors for your own benefit and at their expense, well, that’s called molestation under any other situation and I think that’s what commercial TV is doing to kids. We have laws in the US against this kind of thing; why should it be OK when it comes in the form of cartoony characters?

We have drug-free school zones; how about commercial-free school zones too?

I’m all for free speech – passionately – but this is not a free speech issue. I know there are plenty of “small government” folks who don’t agree with regulations, and besides it’s hard to imagine the kinds of laws that exist in other countries being passed here in the US to control advertising to children. But we can do the next best thing by turning our backs on the thing. If you have kids you should take pride in keeping commercial TV away from them.

Maybe if more people understood the danger to kids from TV they would simply turn it off. Imagine if 25 million – 50 million – just millions and millions of Americans unplugged themselves from corporate entertainment as a protest. What a message that would send!

Here’s a social experiment to try. There are few things more frightening – enlightening? – than NOT watching commercial entertainment for a set period, say three months, and then taking a peek. You’ll be amazed, believe me. I’ve done it.

What do you think? Leave a comment!

If you’re interested in this topic here are a few resources to browse:

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February 26, 2008   |  Filed Under Blog, Living Now   |    Permalink


1 baseball » Just say no to commerical TV! { 02.26.08 at 1:18 pm }

[...] Eric wrote a fantastic post today on “Just say no to commerical TV!”Here’s ONLY a quick extract… [...]

2 Juliet Grames { 02.29.08 at 8:44 am }

Hi there,

Thanks for posting this. I’m a book editor, and as such very concerned about fellow arbiters of media culture and the (often very negative) ideas they force on young children.

My company (Overlook) is publishing a book this spring called THE LOLITA EFFECT: THE MEDIA SEXUALIZATION OF YOUNG GIRLS AND WHAT WE CAN DO ABOUT IT. It’s about this very topic. I hope you’ll check it out at your local bookstore/library–I believe very strongly in the topic and hope this book will inspire other concerned adults.

3 Eric { 02.29.08 at 9:58 am }

Hi Juliet,

Thanks for your comment! I’ll certainly keep an eye for that book – it’s such an important topic and I’m glad to know that there’ll be another resource to bring attention to it; your offering some “defensive arts” sounds terrific too. Badly needed.

I for one hope to use this blog as a way to get more people – both parents and non – to seriously consider “shutting them out” – just turning our backs – in a mass way – on the commercial entertainment/advertising madness. Imagine if 10 million, 20 million, 50 million sets just WENT OFF one day! What a message…

So as they say, “watch this space.”

When the book is out I’d be happy to run a review, something I plan to incorporate as a regular feature. So keep in touch.

Good luck!

4 Julie { 03.04.08 at 1:40 pm }

I’m seeing a trend towards more and more of my peers not owning TVs, or at least not bothering with cable. I haven’t had a TV for the last year and I’ve enjoyed not being bombarded with advertising. There’s more than enough good sources for info, news and commentary on the Web.

The only time it really hurts not having a telly is during hockey playoffs!

5 Eric { 03.04.08 at 2:13 pm }

Well said and I totally agree…In my case it’s a fanatical baseball addiction that keeps me from smashing the thing. That and all the glass that’d go flying. I have kids, you see.

In truth I once caught myself daydreaming as a DVR-recorded game ended and I found myself face-to-face with a TV-haters worse nightmare: An ad for a “sexual performance enhancement” drug. There are few things that can make you feel like the world as you know it has come to end more than one of those can. I really did have to hold back the effort to let a karate kick loose into the Panasonic for that one…

Thanks for the comment Julie!

6 Dean Mauro { 01.13.11 at 11:47 am }

This is so much more important that we even knew when this was first posted. Recent studies from The Mayo Clinic, Harvard Med and Dr. Susan Greenfield of Oxford (Member House of Lords) show that every 1 hour spent for a child watching TV increases their risk for ADD/ADHD by 6%. The FCC only has 22 minutes of TV per 1/2 hour, for 16 minutes of WASTED time each hour at 4-6 hours a day!!! Over a year that Adds up! We Just Launched a Website focussed around this subject. Not plugging it, but advocating this’s not a joke, and we’re either disengaging or just being lazy parents. Turn OFF the TV and UNPLUG and TALK TO OUT KIDS…WE may just LEARN something from them?

7 Eric { 01.13.11 at 11:57 am }

Dean, thanks for the comments, and I couldn’t agree more. Go ahead and plug the website, would be very interested.

8 Teenager { 04.29.11 at 3:28 am }

I am an eighteen year old and I whole heartedly agree with every single word that has been said here. This is nothing short of madness-this constant desire for stimulation that is the basis for almost everything that is shown in this ridiculous box and it is so frightening that not a lot of teenagers think about it. And this blog talks about television-the real problem lies in a lot more places as well. Facebook, mindless, totally mindless, addictive music, blah blah blah.

Great job with the post.

9 Eric { 04.29.11 at 7:14 am }

Teenager – you have just given this middle-aged guy a blast of Hope, Happiness and Confidence that we’re not on a sinking ship after all. Are you sure you’re just eighteen? Wisdom like yours typically takes a lot more living. Thanks for sharing your wise words.

10 Teenager { 04.29.11 at 6:09 pm }

Actually, I am seventeen. I’ll be 18 in a month :)

But yes, the point is that a lot of our lives are filled with things that have no value. Things like passion, curiosity, desire to change something in this world, trying to understand the life that you live and what really matters-all of this has been replaced by mindless abstractions. All of what we see in TV and ‘social networking’ sites and music is addictive-it really is-but that’s the main point of this all. Its addictive. Just like a drug. And no one seems to understand that all addictions are the same. I’m sure you have seen some children while they are watching TV. Don’t they look hypnotized? All this stimulation just kills the value of being a human being.

A few months back I’d seen the facebook status of a guy who wanted a very famous (and ailing) political leader to die soon so that there’d be a national holiday and he could watch an English Premier League match. (!!!!)

And I’m a guy from Nepal-a country where you have power cuts for 14 hrs a day and it takes you 40 hours to download a movie. If its this bad here-I can only imagine how bad it must be in the US.

Once again, great post and keep writing more. I’d send it to my friends but I know none will give it a second thought so what’s the point? But it deserves more views.

11 Eric { 05.01.11 at 6:31 am }

Once again, more wisdom from the SEVENTEEN year old (!) You really have some things to say and you say it so well. I will only add this last thought: Here you are commenting on a post originally written by a guy in New Jersey, USA, and you’re doing this from Nepal. So it’s a BIG world. Seven billion of us. That’s a lot of little human beings scurrying around.

You put 7 billion people together on one puny planet out in the dusty edge of a third-rate galaxy and you’ll find a lot of silly behavior. I mean, put a few thousand into one football statdium and you’ll find lots of idiots there too. Or even 15 people at a party somewhere, someone’s going to act like a fool.

The point is that there’s a lot of silly humans out there doing silly things. Leaving idiotic comments on webpages comparing the value of someone’s life to a soccer (football) game. Using TV as a babysitter. Starting wars.

That said: There are just as many people who are doing so many wonderful things. They don’t make the news. But if you look hard, you’ll see people raising great kids, choosing green products, helping others who need help, acting like mature grown-ups, living RESPONSIBLY.

People like you, leaving thoughtful posts on blogs like this.

You are your own evidence to show that the world – while full of sadness and disapointment, is also full of smart minds, compassion, kindness. It might not be a balanced scale, but the good stuff’s there too. I hate to sound like an old man preaching to the youth, but if you look for it, you will find it, because it’s there to be found.

12 Teenager { 05.01.11 at 7:18 am }

Oh no you don’t sound like ‘an old man preaching to the youth’. I agree with you…in my previous posts I was just trying to say that the ‘black’ side of our society is really, really murky. But of course, there will be people who will balance the society.

I think what we can draw from this talk is that for the society to really change, the people need to change. From within. Maybe this will happen, maybe this won’t-everything in nature exists in balance so maybe it is impractical to expect everything to be perfectly good; for example, in Hindu religion people worship tigers for their bravery, majesty and stuff but the very tiger kills its brothers so that it can have …um…’fun’ with his mother.

I think you should read this article: it deals with some very nagging problems of the society and links them in a very interesting way. And, it talks about this very same problem in a very thoughtful way. I’m sure you will be very interested. And if you wanted to know, I agree with every single word said here.

13 Teenager { 05.01.11 at 7:42 am }

And this might be off the topic but since you touched the topic of wars I thought I should say something.

I think war is such a dynamic, multi-faceted thing that we can never say for sure whether it is good or bad. Obviously, people die and they die terribly but I don’t think that should be the sole basis for judging whether war is good or bad. For example, Europe was plagued by the black death in the 14th century and half its population was decimated in just six years! Imagine how horrible it must have been! But it was this black death that stabilized the population of the overcrowded, barbaric Europe. Renaissance followed, civilization flourished and Europe ruled the world for the next 500 years. So in the end, Black Death did something worthwhile, didn’t it?

I’m sure you will agree that we are going to have a war pretty soon (whenever soon is) but when we look at the complete picture it might be good because just like you said, we have 7 billion people scurrying around. We cannot have seven billion people on a planet that can support just 2 billion and expect everyone to live a happy, satisfied, rich life. Hence, the global crisis, the sickening poverty(some of us are really better off living as early men), the war for oil and stuff. So there will be a war in the end but no matter who started it, it will benefit everyone in the end because even though it sounds wrong, people will die. And nature seeks balance everywhere, even in our population and no matter how much we live in concrete, we are still a part of nature.

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