Sunday, August 16, 2009

The Plug-In Drug

I just finished reading The Plug-In Drug, by Marie Winn, and it was phenomenal. Its ultimate conclusion is that TV is not good for young children or ultimately, for families. This is perhaps not ground-breaking, but I blown away by her reasoning and examples. She effectively dispels the notion that the content of the TV children watch is what's most important. She concedes that watching violent programming is not good for children, but also asserts that simply switching the channel to wholesome children's shows is not significantly better.

I was fascinated by the anecdotes and studies she cites comparing children and families in the 'pre-TV' era to those after the advent of mainstream television. The differences are marked and powerful. In many ways, the book reads as a sociological study of American families in the last 60 years through the lens of television. It made me re-examine my own viewing habits (see previous post) and make plans for when I have my own children one day. Even if you don't have children, I would highly recommend this book. It may change your habits. Winn is not necessarily advocating for a complete end of TV viewing (although she doesn't suggest that that is a bad thing, either), but rather for mindful viewing, with parents in complete control over the families TV (and computer and video games) habits. At the end, she gives examples of families who have controlled, limited, and sometimes eliminated their own TV viewing (some permanently, some for a limited period of time). She also lists a number of methods for curtailing TV access for parents to choose from. They range from minor to revolutionary, so I am confident that we could all find something we would be willing to comply with.

The book was originally published in 1977, but I read the 25th Anniversary edition, published in 2002. It includes important "improvements" or advancements to the TV viewing and electronic media experience since the 1970s. She does not, however, address new developments such as DVRs, Tivo, On Demand, etc. She mentions VCRs in cars and vans, but not DVD players, which are becoming more and more common.

I am still considering how this book will affect my own habits regarding TV and the internet, but I hope there will be changes. Please think about reading this book! It is powerful. Has anyone else read it? What did you think? Any more thoughts on TV viewing?

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