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The Rough Cut 8-26-11: Watching a little TV isn’t going to kill anyone

August 26, 2011 - Keith Frederick
When the headlines recently blared that an Australian study found that watching TV for an hour could shorten your life by 22 minutes, I couldn’t help but roll my eyes.

Every year, it seems, someone tells us how horrible watching TV is for your health. But I’m of a generation that was raised on Saturday morning cartoons and after-school “Saved By the Bell” marathons. And yet, I’m healthy, reasonably athletic and — as far as I know — safe from a sudden, TV-induced demise.

And, though I’d never say that watching too much television is, by itself, a healthy endeavor, I’d say that it’s good for you, as long as you’re watching the right things. (Feel free to read that as “no reality shows.”)

In fact, specifically, I’d argue that we’re in the midst of a Children’s Television Renaissance.

When I was growing up, there was one channel that had educational TV: PBS. You watched “Sesame Street,” “Mr. Rogers’ Neigh­borhood” and “Read­ing Rainbow,” then you switched over to something like “G.I. Joe,” if you were a boy, or “Jem,” if you were a girl.

And, though I may have learned that “Knowing is half the battle,” I was far more interested in the red and blue lasers criss-crossing the screen.

But, today, there are a multitude of children’s shows that both educate and entertain. PBS has been joined by channels like Sprout (a PBS subsidiary), Nick Jr. and Disney Junior, which use good writing and catchy songs to keep kids interested, while — and this is important — not driving parents up a wall.

Take, for example, Nick Jr. As someone who avoided the tone deaf misery of shows like “Barney” and “The Teletubbies,” I LOVE that my 5-year-old and 2-year-old can watch shows like “The Fresh Beat Band” and “The Backyardigans” and hear songs that have recognizable beats and sensical lyrics.

And I have to admit that when my kids insist on watching that televised bad trip, “Yo Gabba Gabba,” I enjoy seeing my favorite entertainers guest star. I flipped it on the other day and saw Mos Def dressed as a superhero. Mos Def!

And when my kids get older, I’m happy that they won’t be entering a world of mindless drivel. Shows on Nickelodeon like “iCarly” and “Victorious” have a higher production value, and far better acting, than most live-action shows I watched as a teen. Although the live-action shows on The Disney Channel are still mind-numbingly bad.

And even the animated content has improved. As a teen, I always preferred cartoons that didn’t talk down to me, like “Animaniacs” (filled with pop culture allusions and smart jokes), “Batman: The Animated Series” (one of the best animated series ever) and “Beavis and Butthead” (um... moving on).

So when I see a smart cartoon like the Disney Channel’s “Phineas and Ferb,” I’m happy to have them watch it. Hey, I watch it after they go to bed, so why not? I don’t believe watching TV has hurt me. And seeing my kids run around outside, loving every minute, I don’t believe watching TV has hurt them.

Personally, I think it’s more detrimental to devote your life to finding out the exact number of minutes that TV watching will shorten someone’s life.

Mirror Staff Writer Keith Frederick’s column runs monthly in Go. You can reach him at 946-7466 or by email at kfrederick@altoonamirror. com.

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