TITLE: In Defese of Turning off Your TV (a college speech paper)
By Jacob Gibson
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I. Introduction (1. Attention)
1 When I was a kid I remember that my parents would buy lots of books for me that I loved to read over and over. Out of all, my favorites were definitely the Berenstain Bears series. Each book told valuable lessons like minding your manners, good eating habits, and getting along, and they were always entertaining. In one book called “Too Much TV,” Mama Bear worries about her family’s high TV consumption and decides to drop it for one week. At first the rest of the family acts like they can’t live without it, but by the end of the week, they have discovered how to be perfectly happy doing other things. The authors wrote this book before I was born, but I believe the lesson will always stay true.
2 While most probably know they shouldn’t watch too much television, others may not even think about it. But how many of us really know why? No one wants to become a couch potato, but that’s just the beginning. It might alarm you to discover what watching a lot of TV could do to your body and mind. That’s why I want to mention some of the possible dangers of too much TV, suggest what you can do to watch less, and help you see how your decision could make your life better than before. It’s just old-fashioned advice with more information and a little motivation.
II. Effects (2. Need)
3 One group that well understands this situation is a successful nonprofit organization called TV-Turnoff Network. They have a goal to help children and adults “turn off the TV and turn on life” as their slogan says. According to their research on their website, “Americans watch an average of more than four hours of TV a day, or two full months of TV a year.” That’s kind of scary. Even worse, that much time in front of the set could actually hinder their reading ability. The National Center for Education Statistics did a study and found that 12th grade students who watched an hour or less of TV daily held the highest reading proficiency, those who watched at least 6 hours had the lowest, and those who watched 2-5 hours fell in between the two.
4 Thousands of other studies have been done in this area, and many emerge with unpleasant results. Here’s a short list of common claims. Watching TV can become addictive like other things, and viewers might choose TV instead of more valuable pursuits (IV). Violent cartoons may influence some boys to act more aggressive. Famous women who have the “ideal body” may cause some girls to strongly dislike their body and become anorexic (IV). Anything on TV, whether a show or commercial, may encourage people to believe in stereotypes or a false reality (DP 290-291). The negative focus of the news may depress people or make them feel overly worried or pessimistic. The list continues and my time runs out. If TV is a part of these problems, it could be just one of many, but perhaps still a significant one.
5 What about what happens between shows? Are we being persuaded to buy stuff we don’t need after watching hundreds of commercials? UNI English professor Scott Cawelti says, "Viewers get enormous messages from television, particularly through commercials. We're happy or sad or lonely or ugly or fat, or we're urged to consume more food or acquire more possessions." I think we most likely know what he means. For me, sometimes commercials can sound like endless voices yelling for my attention and money. I worry that too many of us could be too materialistic, and sometimes have more concern for things instead of people. It also isn’t rare to see commercials that advertise products like alcohol without showing bad consequences. Thankfully, if we can and want to buy special equipment like TiVo, I hear that you could fast-forward commercials altogether. Or... we could just change the channel or mute the sound. That works too.
6 Maybe TV doesn’t affect everyone in the same ways, or in the ways some think, but that doesn’t mean it can’t affect us. Someone might ask “What’s wrong with watching a little TV? It helps me relax and relieve stress. I don’t think it’s that bad.” It’s perfectly fine to want some relaxation, but how much is a little? And how do you know it’s not affecting you? My motto for questionable things like this is, “Instead of always asking, ‘what’s wrong with it?’ most of the time try to ask yourself ‘What’s right with it? Does it really benefit me or others in the long-run?’” If we keep making excuses for things we do and also feel guilty, then maybe it’s time to reexamine our true motives.
The Plan (3. Satisfaction) ?
7 By now you probably would like to know the recommended amount of viewing time. I could tell you what I think is right, but I believe that’s something you and your family should decide. Talk with them about it, talk to friends about their standards, and do some research. Next, consider setting a time limit for how much TV you watch and a standard for what kind of shows you see. If you have children, learn about their favorite shows and, if you have younger children, whether or not they should watch TV. When you feel bored and don’t know what to do try one of these activities: find a new book to read, do something outside, play a game, reorganize your room, or talk to someone about their day. Remember that life is short, and it won’t stay the same forever, so we should consider what’s most important to us.
8 TV-Turnoff Network also has some good ideas to encourage people to turn off the set. From April 23rd to 29th, families everywhere can participate in TV-Turnoff week, the same challenge as the one in the Berenstain Bears book. And the program “More Reading, Less TV,” asks teachers to motivate their students to read more. The organization also provides many important facts about TV-watching and fun ideas for new activities. If you like, you can donate to TV-Turnoff Network and buy special products like T-shirts and posters, by visiting their website www.tv-turnoff.org.
Benefits (4. Visualization)
9 Okay, I’ve said quite a lot about consequences. Now I bet you’re ready to hear about the benefits of changing your habits. I’ll gladly share some with you that I can think off the top of my head. You could lose weight, you could exercise your mind with better activities, have more quality time with your family and friends, think faster and more clearly, save some money, and you might even feel better about yourself and the world. How could you not want all that?
10 Let’s look at the positive points of television now. I believe TV has some great shows to teach and inform us, like the educational shows on PBS, Discovery Channel, or the History Channel. The news and forecasts can tell us what’s happening around the world and the upcoming weather. And maybe we could learn about something we really do need to buy or do after seeing a commercial. Just remember the chance that many shows could tell you only what they want you to think or believe, and most issues are never as simple as they sound. So choose wisely, think deeper, and find out more.
11 I hope that now you feel more than eager to change some old patterns and start living more of your life. I also hope you’ll carefully choose what you watch on TV, and always keep an open mind. Cutting back might be a little tough at first, but once you become used to the shift I believe it will get easier. You could be surprised how you can get used to not turning it on as much. I’ve actually learned how to enjoy doing various activities each day and prefer to not watch much TV. I believe the same is possible for you.
12 To close this speech, I want to ask some tough questions. Is it worth our time to see hours of anger, fighting, and violence when we can have a more positive outlook? Is it worth our time to watch mindless shows when we have a mind with so much to learn? Is it worth our time to entertain ourselves by watching dysfunctional families and neglect our own family and friends? I don’t think so. We have a life to live, a purpose to complete, and a difference to make. There might be a reason we’re here on Earth, and since TV hasn’t existed from the beginning, I doubt it’s a big part of that reason. Just a little time wasted each day equals a lot of time wasted, and the time we throw away can’t be retrieved from a garbage can. Remember, you’re only one button away from real life. I dare you to push it.
Attention getter (I) Berenstain Bears
Stereotypes, violence (II) Dev Psy book (290-291, 378) media(422,290-291,448,378-379,385,386,463)
Kids & Violence? (III) Health & Nut (77)
Scott Cawelti (IV) (http://www.umpr.uni.edu/news.asp?NewsID=1720)
TV Statistics (V) http://www.csun.edu/science/health/docs/tv&health.html
TV Turnoff Network (VI) (http://www.tvturnoff.org/)
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