April 22-28, 1999 is National TV-Turnoff Week. This annual event aims to give back what TV often takes away: our productivity, creativity, health, inter-personal relating, civic engagement, spiritual gift development and moral decency. You won't hear this on TV but millions of Americans plan to break their ties with the tube for seven delightful days in April. Many schools, libraries, churches, public health organizations and other groups will lead the way. Give it a try.
Do it (excuse the cliché) for the children. The average American child watches 1,197 minutes  of TV each week while the average parent spends38 minutes  a week with their child in meaningful conversation. The average youth is glued to the tube for 1500 hours a year. They're at school for just 900 hours.  Twenty-five percent of our teens know where the U.S. Constitution was written (Philadelphia).  Seventy-five percent know the zip code of Beverly Hills (90210). 
You may think me a clueless curmudgeon. Maybe so. Could it be, however, that my challenge sounds unrealistic because your kid's TV addiction is beyond your ability to intervene with logic and love? Over half of our kids have TVs in their bedrooms to better rob them of family connections, quiet time, homework time, sleep time, reading pleasure, mental, ethical and spiritual development and a healthy sense of reality.
Parents, take charge! Don't use TV to reward or punish. That gives it more power than it deserves. Don't fret when TV cutbacks elicit "I'm bored" complaints. Boredom often leads to creativity. There was no TV in my childhood home until I was twelve. Now look at my family. One brother is a famous fine artist. Two are musicians. One is a skilled photographer. Another is a great lover of nature and an artist. I enjoy using whatever art, music and writing skills God has lent to me to enrich my ministry.
Besides, being bored is an insult to one's self. Are you normal? Webster defines normal as "conformity to a common standard." Now if the standard is low, then "normal" is an insult. If the standard is lofty, then "normal" is good. Today, extramarital sex, profanity and smarting off to parents are socially acceptable, in part, because such behavior is treated as no big deal on TV. Modern moral standards are desperately low. Television standards are lower. If you allow TV to define normal for you, you're lost. Whatever normal is, it can change. Hollywood knows this too well. It effectively sets most of our social standards and makes its own values mainstream. Its best weapon is no secret: TV.
Is doctor-assisted suicide normal? Just watch "60 Minutes" for a live (no pun intended) demonstration. Are deception, casual sex, profanity and homosexuality all healthy staples for normal living? They are on "Spin City" (just drop the 'p' from the title). Are "unisex" bathrooms normal? "Ally McBeal" thinks so. Are most teens articulate, gorgeous, confident demigods while most adults are bumbling dolts? On "Dawson's Creek" they often are. Is frank sexual banter normative for public dialogue? Just watch the "news" (plus any of the shows above).
TV tends to normalize sin. It dulls our physical, mental, emotional and spiritual tools for building faith, hope and love. The question is not, "What is normal?" The question should be, "What are your standards and from where do they come?" When sin is normal, we all lose. Dare to ditch your TV for a week. Better yet, delve into your Bible for strength. Nothing stigmatizes sin and normalizes love like the Good Book.
1. Nielson Media Research, 1998.
2. American Family Research Council, "Parents Fight 'Time Famine' as
Economic Pressures Increase," 1990.
3. Barber, Benjamin, Harper's, November, 1993, p. 4.
5. Survey conducted by the National Constitution Center (NCC), Philadelphia, 1998.
Joel Mark Solliday, Minister, West Side Church of Christ
P.O. Box 9281, New Haven, CT 06533-0281
TV Turn-Off Week is conceived and sponsored by:
1611 Connecticut Avenue, NW Suite 3A
Washington DC 20009