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Columnist says TV diet is ‘do-it-yourself lobotomy’

BOSTON (BP)–“A steady diet of television is a do-it-yourself lobotomy.”

Boston Herald columnist Don Feder, in a column focused on the April 23-29 national TV Turnoff Week, offered that assessment among an array of opinions and stats about TV’s drain on U.S. culture.

“In its early days, television was hailed as a medium for bringing culture to the masses. Today, the very idea is laughable,” Feder wrote.

Feder cited a 1998 study which found that 52 percent of high school seniors who watched less than an hour of TV daily achieved reading proficiency on standardized tests — a success matched by only 14 percent who watched TV six hours a day.

“But television has an educational impact of sorts,” Feder reflected. “It teaches us to be materialistic, violent and sexually irresponsible.

“By age 18, the average child has been exposed to 360,000 commercials. One command is hammered into malleable minds: buy, buy, buy — things will make you happy. No wonder we’ve become a nation of hyper-consumers, whose lives are largely dedicated to acquisition.

“Television has also shaped the savagery into which we are sinking,” Feder continued. “In the first 18 years of life, the average child will witness 16,000 dramatized murders, as well as tens of thousands of assaults and other acts of mayhem.

“Juveniles can watch movies like ‘Romeo Must Die’ on HBO, hear odes to homicide and suicide on MTV, and see steroidal mutants giving each other groin kicks on ‘WWF Smackdown.’ And some commentators wonder how kids (like those who re-enact ‘Rambo: First Blood’ at their high school) develop a death wish.”

Addressing TV’s sexual content, Feder cited a 1999 Parents Television Council study which found that per-hour sexual content on the networks was three times as great as a decade earlier.

Today’s fare includes simulated sexual acts, at times with anonymous strangers; same-sex kisses; foul language; cyber-sex; and references to bodily functions, Feder wrote.

“Television’s lessons are learned all too well. In 1999, for the first time, every third child in America was born to an unwed mother,” Feder lamented. “No wonder the late Steve Allen, a pioneer in the medium, charged, ‘TV is leading our children down a moral sewer.'”

More than 60 organizations, including the Family Research Council, American Medical Association and Physicians for Social Responsibility have endorsed TV Turnoff Week.

Of TV’s pervasiveness, Feder noted, “The average American spends four hours a day grazing before the tube. Over 40 percent of our homes have three or more sets. More than one in three of us regularly watches TV while eating dinner. One in four fall asleep in front of a glowing screen at least three nights a week.”

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