I remember it clearly as if it were yesterday – my first glimpse of television (TV), that marvelous new world of moving pictures in the home.
It was a Saturday, I believe in 1952. I had played baseball all morning and I had just returned from the Hudson Theatre in Harrison N.J. – where I had watched 25 cartoons and a full-length “Tarzan” feature (the one where he meets Jane) – had a bag of pop-corn — all for twenty-five cents. As always – dad was there to pick me up, along with three of my “good buddies”.
Dad was very quiet on the way home – not normal at all. When we arrived home, my dear mom greeted dad and me as we came into the kitchen. Dinner was ready – and I could hear Amos and Andy on the radio in the living room. Mom turned to me and said – “Tommy why don’t you take your plate into the living room and listen to the radio broadcast.” Wow, that was indeed a rare treat for me – to eat in the living room, on my own – listening to the radio. Didn’t take me long at all to gather up my plate, kiss mom and dad and my sister and then head off.
Well – much to my surprise and joy – Amos and Andy weren’t on the radio – they were there in “living motion” on our first 10” Dumont television. I was floored! Much water has passed under the bridge since then, and TV has become “state of the art” – big screen, surround-sound, and in full-dynamic color. But, there is a problem. Not only are the programs (in general) worthless and boring – but they have replaced “family time”.
Our children have traded in baseball gloves for hand-held games — reading books for computer-based chat rooms — and television has replaced family time and physical activities. Don’t think so you say – well, the statistics on childhood education, disease and obesity speak volumes. A reading of these statistics reveals a nation of increased obesity, declining abilities to read and comprehend the written word. Only 14 percent of 12th graders who watch TV six or more hours a day read proficiently – in comparison, 52 percent of students who watch an hour or less are good readers.
American children watch an average of four or more hours of TV a day, or two full months of TV a year, that doesn’t leave much time for physical activity does it. Sadly, 45 percent of families always or often watch TV while eating dinner – so much for that special time of sharing and talking to one another. Perhaps that gives insight to the decline of the family in so many ways. Do you know what your child is thinking, feeling – happy about, sad about? You’ll never know if you don’t take the time to ask and share.
There are excellent programs available on television. The History Channel, Discovery Channel and public broadcast stations are all great picks for finding quality programs. However, the vast majority of children watching television are not choosing quality programming. So I have a suggestion for all of us – let’s take a break from TV. Embrace the love and gift of your children – turn off the TV and turn on “family time”.
Thomas H. Hunkele of Troup County is a certified fitness trainer and president of Lakeside Fitness.