This book had many facts and plenty of quotes from parents, teachers, and others. Overall it reinforces my family's choice to not show TV to our four children. For a little background, we own a TV that DH's brother gave us while we were moving, but we did not pay the local cable company thousands of dollars to bring cable to this neighborhood, and for most of the years our children have been alive, we have not shown them TV or movies with a computer, either. Both DH and I grew up with TV and we know our decision is unusual these days; we believe it is best for the whole family. Here in our new house our children have a playroom; half of them know how to read and they are all bookworms. They don't always get along, but they are learning how to share and their God-given creativity along with their studies helps them pass the time.
The book's main premise is that even more important than limiting TV time and making sure our children don't watch shows that are bad for them is cutting it out nearly or completely to give family members time to experience the joys and challenges of actual life.
After establishing that television watching "induces a more passive mental state than is normal in a child" (page 20) and the addictive nature of television, the author documents television's effects on the brain and on play: how children play less and play less imaginatively. Mrs. Winn gives an informed defense of reading.
One of my favorite parts of the book started on page 125, when Mrs. Winn tells us younger readers - and older readers who forgot - what parents and children did before television. She tells us that parents were firm, knew their children better, and enforced naps. Some of this information is from the first edition of this book, published in 1987. The next chapter discusses free time and how there is so much less of it when children spend hours watching TV. Another chapter elaborates on the changed quality of family life.
She argues against computers in the classroom, including use of Channel One. (I agree with this to some extent: I was disappointed when I visited my high school after graduating and found that even though they already had at least two computer labs, they replaced Journalism's darkroom with more computers. Developing photos is now one less skill current and future journalism students are learning.) Before DVDs and even newer technology, she wrote about the VCR and movies in cars along with video games and computer games.
While Part VI covered Controlling Television, Part VII is what I was waiting for: No Television. She explains how she was involved in some TV Turn-offs and details three in particular. The last one prompted her to give advice to those who want to plan their own temporary or permanent turn-off, starting on page 253:
- Plan in advance
- "Sell" the Turn-off to your children
- Do not expect miracles
- Have reasonable expectations instead of being ambivalent
For some motivation for parents who aren't sure about having a turn-off, this is what you could have:
- A greater feeling of closeness as a family
- A more peaceful atmosphere in the home-
- More help by children in the household
- Better sibling relations
- More interaction with adults by children
- More reading
- More outdoor play
- Changes in bedtime and meals
- Better relations between parents
- More crafts and hobbies
Only three problems with turn-offs were listed:
- Missed programs
- Social pressure
- Loss of effective punishment
The last chapter was a delight to read: No-TV Families. Marie tell us about both families who began family life without television and families who decided to remove its presence from their homes. Even though some of these families have difficulty attracting babysitters to their homes, they nevertheless enjoy longer meals spent talking to each other and earlier bedtimes. In the Coda at the very end, she repeats her hypothesis that declining test scores are related to the incidence of more and more children watching television.
This book includes many more facts than I gave it credit for, and this review does not do it justice. I left most of them out hoping that you will want to read the book and learn more for you and your own family.