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Even if it looks interesting, TV is not always good for children

Teaching Your Child

Teaching Your Child

April 18, 2008|By LISA TEDRICK PREJEAN

In January, after a quick trip south, our family had a layover in the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.

We had about two hours to wait, so we spent some time in the food court, tried not to think about going back to school and work the next day, and generally attempted to relax.

There was a TV at the boarding gate, and, at first glance, the station appeared to be PBS or the History Channel. The program looked interesting, and I could tell my son was intrigued.

We don't watch much TV in our household. Our children are too busy studying, practicing musical instruments, reading or just playing together outside.

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I'm always amused each year as the annual TV Turnoff Week rolls around. We don't have to turn off our TV very often because we rarely have it on.

This year, the Center for Screen-time Awareness, which organizes the TV Turnoff Week, is encouraging families to make Monday, April 21, through Sunday, April 27, a TV-free week. The center also is encouraging parents to contact airports and the CNN parent company, Time Warner, about the content of programs being broadcast to all age groups in airports.

After my experience in the Atlanta airport, I can understand why.

The historical images on that airport TV drew my son like a magnet. I looked back down at the book I was reading only to find him at my elbow a few moments later.

"What's wrong?" I asked.

He shrugged his shoulders, but I noticed he was avoiding looking at the TV. Knowing that he is a history buff, I was more than a little curious. My son was uncomfortable, and I wanted to know why.

"I'll be right back," I told him as I walked closer so I could hear what was being said.

Pictures of young people from the 1950s were being flashed on the screen. It all looked very historical and innocent.

Then I heard the commentator mention group sex and how it was a common practice among this particular group. I didn't listen long enough to hear the group's name.

I marched right over to the ticket agent to lodge a complaint.

He told me he didn't have control over the television set and that I would need to speak to one of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) agents.

"Don't bother. They won't turn it off," he said.

I just smiled and approached the nearest TSA agent, not realizing he was in the middle of a call on his radio.

Before I knew it, two other TSA agents were at my elbow questioning why I had approached the first guard in such a purposeful manner.

"The TV is tuned to a station that is not appropriate for children. Look around this waiting area at all the children. Would you please turn off the TV?"

The guards relaxed a bit but then looked a little baffled.

"Ma'am, I don't think we know how to turn off the TV," one of them admitted.

It was my turn to be baffled.

"You mean it stays on all the time?"

They nodded.

"Well, could you try to figure out where the off button is?"

Working together, they figured it out, and the screen went dead.

As I was walking back to my seat, a man leaned toward me and remarked, "Hey, lady, that's just a fact of life. Your kids will hear about it sooner or later."

I stopped, looked him in the eye and said, "I am responsible for what goes in the minds of my children, and I choose to not have them exposed to that information at ages 8 and 12."

Perhaps he didn't care whether the TV was on or off, but I certainly did.

For information about the Center for Screen-time Awareness advocacy campaign, go to www.tvturnoff.org.

Lisa Tedrick Prejean writes a weekly column for The Herald-Mail's Family page. Send e-mail to her at lisap@herald-mail.com

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