Do people in general (and teenagers in particular) spend too much time watching television? If so, what are the consequences of this?

One major form of entertainment for most people is the television. Recently it seems to have become almost too popular. Often, students turn on the television as soon as they get home from school, either to watch it, or simply to have the sound in the background.

There is one major consequence of watching too much television, and that is the creation of a time shortage. It seems to me that people are always rushing -- saying that they have so little time. Several half-hour shows or a couple of movies can cut a large chunk out of these precious minutes, or perhaps even cause the deficiency. Even if extra time were available, it could be used for more profitable ventures, such as reading, spending time with friends and family, or academic pursuits.

This is not to say that the TV should be banned altogether, but reducing the amount of time spent in front of it may not be a bad idea. ALICE CHANG High Point

I don't believe that people spend as much time watching television as is popularly thought. Many people, including teenagers, only watch the "prime time" shows from 8 until 10 o'clock in the evening. Since many teenagers work, the television is not as big a part of their lives as might be presumed. Most parents believe their children are watching too much television because of this two-hour prime time block.

There are some teenagers who are "couch potatoes." Television has a tendency to draw a viewer out of touch with reality. But I believe we need television to help get us out of touch with reality sometimes, because if everything we watched were realistic and truthful, the world would become a very depressing place.

I am not saying all television is good; neither is it automatically bad. SCOTT AUSTIN Northwestern

American teenagers are spending too much time in front of the television. The first thing a youth does when coming home from school is turn on the television and grab something to eat during the comercial.

After a long day at school, a soap opera, cartoon or MTV can help one unwind; but most teenagers do not stop with one hour of television; they'll leave it on for another two or three hours. Homework is ignored and household chores are avoided, causing conflict within the family.

It is sad to see so much time go to waste -- time that could be spent getting getting homework done, taking a walk, reading a book, spending time with the family or helping out around the house.

Television is not bad, in fact it can be very educational and help ease tension. Television only becomes bad when it is used in excess and the viewer chooses to watch trash.

Television should not be cut from a teenager's life, just monitored so that not too much time is devoted to watching it. KRISTIN PATERSON Friendly

At the present time, teenagers as well as adults spend their time viewing quality television. When I say quality television, I mean television which is of educational or informative value.

The television today is becoming more of an educational device, in addition to an entertainment device. With the variety of informative specials on drugs, AIDS, broken homes and child abuse, we can be learn about and relate to these problems. Talk shows also help us by informing us about real issues that were once never discussed openly.

Don't get me wrong, teenagers still spend time watching comedies, dramas and soap operas, but I don't feel it's an overwhelming amount of time. We should try to see television as an educational device. WYKEETA PEEL Laurel

Television, a time-consuming and wasteful empty box, is the religion of our generation. It exists for the sole purpose of taking the place of other, valuable activities.

A typical high school teen will sit in front of the boob tube every night for an average of two and one-half hours, looking at nothing of importance. But this same student recoils at the thought of studying, reading, or exercising his body for the same amount of time.

Television is not the school for intelligent and competent individuals. It is a well of nothingness. It requires no thought or analysis. It does not contribute to any useful force in our everyday lives. Never has mind-development taken place while watching the "A-Team."

Television is capital entertainment -- fine and well! But we must learn to entertain ourselves in more helpful ways. The alternatives are endless. I challenge every teenager to give up television for one week and learn how much fuller his life can become. I did, and I'm glad. SOPHIA EDMUNDSTON Northwestern

Teenagers do not watch too much television. We live in a faster-paced society than we did 10 years ago. Today, families are more on the go. Parents, as well as their children, spend most of their time outside of the home. Either both work, or they are involved in other things.

Teenagers seem to be going out more often and really don't watch much television. They are usually out doing something constructive (or just out in the streets involved in things they shouldn't be). Many teenagers today have cars, and I think because of this, there is less emphasis on the home.

Television can help or it can hurt. If you spend the majority of your time watching television, you won't have much social life or much of a personality.

On the other hand, maybe the teenagers who are out on the street getting into trouble need to spend more time watching television. After all, most of what happens on television is what's really going on in the streets. LISA LORD Canterbury

I think people are spending too much time watching television. I feel that this is a problem with several serious consequences.

First of all, I feel that excessive viewing of the television causes the breakdown of family life. As people spend more and more time in front of the television set, they become more and more detached from the family.

Secondly, I feel that the large amount of time people are putting into watching television could be used in a much more productive activity. Watching television is a very passive activity which requires little or no thought. No creativity is involved because the screen provides the imagery, instead of allowing the viewer to paint his own picture in his mind.

Lastly, I feel that many of today's television shows are giving many viewers, especially young ones, misconceptions of reality.

In conclusion, I would like those people who are spending too much time in front of the television to look for other activities which involve more creativity and thought. DAVID FULCHER High Point

While statistics tell us that the average American watches seven hours of television daily, the "couch potato controversy" has become a continuing saga.

Many of us have heard the tales of people who spend all day watching television and then become "addicted" to it. Television takes the focus of life away from reality and puts it on the stories and problems of ficticious characters. The people who are mesmerized by "glowing boxes" are usually looking for a way to escape their problems, or simply to stop thinking.

Television can be a good thing if it is used selectively. Informational, educational, and amusing programs can provide entertainment and learning when watched with restraint. If parents could stop encouraging their children to watch so much television, maybe kids could learn to use their time more constructively, and to deal with reality, from the beginning. SUSAN DeGRESS Queen Anne

I believe that people, especially teenagers, spend too much time watching television. There are many reasons for this. Television is so easy. All you have to do is turn a button and there it is. Also, it's not very expensive. These days, it's becoming even more popular because of VCRs and cable television.

However, some of the time spent watching TV is very educational. Now that I am older, I find myself watching the news and actually being very interested in what's going on in the world. I also watch a lot of specials on public TV. I find the "National Geographic" and "Nature" programs very interesting.

We cannot overlook the shows that have bad influences on weak minds. We have all heard about "copy-cat" criminals. They see what happens on TV and then go out and do it in the real world.

The sex and violence on TV have greatly increased in recent years. And many programs, like "Miami Vice," seem to glorify criminals. They show how wealthily drug dealers and other criminals live. Young people see this as how they would like to live and try to adopt the lifestyles of the criminals on television. In this way, television sometimes influences people into living a life of crime.

Television has some bad effects, however I don't think that much can be done by the networks. We could, like the Soviet Union, not allow certain programs on television. But since this is America, help must start at home. Parents need to watch programs with their children. Children and teenagers need some sort of guidance to show them what is right and what is wrong. ARTHUR WALLACE Friendly

I think it is a general misconception that people watch too much television. Teens have always been stereotyped as being "glued to the tube," but in fact this is not true. Teenagers spend most of their time talking on the phone, going out or working. Kids up to 10 years-old generally watch a lot of television. This is because they tend to get home earlier than teens and have more time to watch television.

A teenager, especially an older teen, may have a job or a car, in which case he would not be at home. Adults get back from work late and usually catch the news; there is not much time at night for them to watch television while handling the other things that must be done. Similarly, A working teen does not get home until late, and then usually has homework and chores to do. Teens in sports also have to balance homework and getting back late from practice every day.

Though it may be true that younger kids watch a lot of television, in most cases they will grow out of it by the time they get into high school. THERESA DeSTAFANIS Canterbury

Don't touch that dial -- it could be hazardous to your health!

Americans seem to have an insatiable appetite for television, and that's putting it lightly. Watching television is an obsession dangerous to the mental health of future generations. How can our country prosper if the mind-set is making "big money" on "Wheel of Fortune?" It's also frightening that many people try to become their favorite television characters (who are usually shallow and unrealistic).

Television is not bad. I just think that we all need to regulate how much we watch. It's a great way to stimulate the imagination. But if we watch too much TV, our identities tend to get lost in the show.

Unless each of us limits the amount of time spent watching television, the future is in "Jeopardy!" MANDY BURT Queen Anne

Many people spend a tremendous amount of time watching television, especially teenagers. By watching TV, we tend to put things off until later (such as our homework). Some teenage girls are "addicted" to soap operas and always find the time after school to view their favorite shows. This hour or two could be used in a more productive manner, such as doing homework, household chores and other important things. Today, with the invention of the VCR, we can tape our soap operas and spend even more time watching them after school.

I can't blame just the girls for watching TV and wasting too much valuable time. Almost everyone tunes in to "The Cosby Show" and "Moonlighting." For some, watching television is not wasteful, but rather a period of relaxation. TOMIKA GRIMES Laurel "Speak Out" Topic for January 28:

Recently, the Chicago public school system decided to provide students in grades four through eight with calculators for use in math classes. Some experts fear that the use of calculators by the young will cause permanent damage by impairing the learning of fundamentals. Others believe that the calculators will make learning math more fun and interesting to students.

Is this a good idea? What effect do calculators have on learning the basics of math?

Responses should be no more than 150 words in length and typed or written legibly. Political-style cartoons on the topic are welcome. Submissions should include the student's name, school and grade.

Responses should be addressed to: Weekly High School Section The Washington Post 1150 15th St. NW Washington, D.C. 20071 Deadline for responses is Monday, Jan. 18.