Do you feel like your television set is controlling you rather than the other way around?
Joan Anderson Wilkins' book, Breaking the TV Habit (Charles Scribner's Sons, $9.95) discusses this very 20th-century phenomenon and offers a four-week plan to drastically cut back TV viewing--if not to boldly give it up altogether.
"People are most surprised at the alpha wave story I mention in my book," says Wilkins, a Pearl River, N.Y., writer and lecturer on family topics. "Nobody knows that watching TV throws the brain waves into the alpha state, which is the sleep state, within anywhere from 30 seconds to a minute," explains Wilkins, referring to a controversial study for General Electric by Connecticut sociologist Herbert Krugman.
Before a family can begin her TV-reducing program, Wilkins says, it must first determine the seriousness of viewing habits. Her questions to assess signs of TV addiction in children:
1) Do they come straight home from school and head for the TV set?
2) Do they spend Saturday morning in front of the TV set?
3) In their spare time do they turn to television first and other activities second?
4) Do they watch television before school?
5) Do they play with toys while the television is turned on?
6) Do they play with friends in front of the television?
7) Do your children frequently say they're bored?
8) Do your children nag you for TV toys and junk food?
9) Are the majority of the toys your children play with electronically related?
10) Are your children under age 12 still awake at 10 p.m.?
11) Is the television on during mealtimes?
12) Is much of the mealtime conversation television-related?
13) Do your children ask to arrange meals, family activities and life in general around what's going to be on television?
"What my program does," says Wilkins, "is take a heavy viewing family that watches six hours a day or more, to watching one hour a day in the course of four weeks. And for the most part it's painless."
Here's how her plan works: Week One--Watch yourself watching television by recording all daily viewing of TV programs. Week Two--Become more critical of your viewing habits. At the beginning of each day decide which programs you intend to watch and why you plan to watch them. After watching each show rate the program. Week Three--Start to cut back on television viewing by following a seven-step plan. This includes keeping only one TV set turned on and eliminating TV viewing before school and during meals. Week Four--Turn off your TV set, put it in a closet and only bring it out for special programs. "If you can go one week without it, you have experienced something that most people haven't. You really have to draw on your resources."