As a result of our new control over TV we can watch it less and we watch it constructively.

Our family decided it was time to stop talking about television’s potential for harm and do something about it. We considered: (1) Selling or destroying our set; but children of families who try that watch at someone else’s house, and control is thus one step farther from the parent. (2) Being selective about what we watch; but on prime-time evening hours often this only gives you a choice between various suggestive, violent, and sexually explicit shows. (3) Doing family things together; but often it’s too wintery to go on a family outing or we aren’t always in the mood to play a family game or read books together, especially when our three-year-old is active.

We looked for a workable alternative that would let our preteens feel privileged, not punished. For us the answer is a video cassette recorder (VCR). We play what we judge the very best programs. Add an occasional rented videotape, and a birthday party or slumber party becomes special. It costs less ($4.00) to rent a top movie like Superman than it does to buy the refreshments when we go to a theater.

With our children’s cooperation, we choose what moral impressions we will allow the tube to put out. If our three-year-old sleeps through “Sesame Street” or “Mr. Rogers,” we put on a tape of either and he is happy. Our family enjoys religious drama, but we aren’t awake in the wee morning hours when Emmy-Award-winning This Is the Life is broadcast in our area. The timer on our VCR turns the unit on, records the show, and we replay it at our convenience.

Saturday morning cartoons, often called TV’s most violent hours, once kept our children entranced. Now they usually give way to a replay ...

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