It's your choice: Watch the adventure or live the adventure

Life is short. We can watch the adventure or live the adventure. Watch happens when you unplug your television and set your kids free.

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  • When my twins were in kindergarten I went to great lengths to make sure that they did not watch any violent television, including not allowing them to watch a very popular cartoon. But, because I couldn't be home all the time and because the television wouldn't fit in my purse and leave with me, a violent cartoon slipped by my ever vigilant eyes.

  • My boys watched a movie filled with large swords, ninja kicks and amazingly violent ninja superheroes. And no matter how upset I was with their father for allowing it, I couldn't change what had happened. I couldn't erase the images from their mind.

  • Because I worked, my twins would go to a sitter after kindergarten for an hour. A day after they watched the violent movie I got a call from the sitter. She told me the following story.

  • She was coming down the stairs when she saw my 5-year-old son talking to a group of other 5-year-olds. He asked them, "Do you want to see my wife?" This made the sitter smile and tune in. He reached in his jeans pocket and pulled out a 12 inch French butcher knife. Not a wife! With his little speech impediment he had meant, "Do you want to see my KNIFE!"

  • The sitter panicked and screamed. My son panicked and dropped his wife AKA knife. She said it was like watching a slow motion movie as it fell blade first and landed stabbing through another child's shoe. Luckily the blade went between two toes and no blood was drawn.

  • That was it for me. I promptly bought a bumper sticker that read, "Kill Your Television," stuck it on the back of my VW bus and, not long after, began the great television free family experiment.

  • Consequently my children grew up without network television. The only televised entertainment in our home was the movies we rented and allowed. For more than 20 years my children grew up in a television free home with the exception of a three month period of time.

  • Here is what happened in our television free zone

    • Our children wrote and performed original plays while still in elementary school.

    • Our children built an entire city out of cardboard.

    • Our children became successful sales people making more than $100 selling seashells they collected.

    • Our children volunteered to aid neighbors and got involved as search and rescue volunteers at age 14.

    • Two of our children are musicians. One is an amazing artist.

    • We had two sons who were football captains and one head cheerleader.

    • They took advantage of church activities.

    • One became an All American Academic Athlete who took sixth in the nation.

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  • Would they have done all these things with television? Maybe.

  • There are only so many hours in the day to live. We are consumers. If we consume garbage entertainment we risk becoming a poster child for the computer programmers' description of, "Garbage in, garbage out." In other words, if we feed our children garbage entertainment, guess what we are most likely to get? A boy who carries his wife/knife to the school and the sitter's.

  • The average child goes to school at 7:30 and gets home a few hours before dinnertime. With homework and activities, they only have a few hours of time left. It is all about choices. Our children did not have the television option and rarely had the video game option. They had to choose something else. They chose sports, art, volunteering and more.

  • We had a break from our experiment when I took a college class that required me to watch televised lectures. I ordered cable for a few short months. It was like I had performed a lobotomy on all six of my children. I would come home from work to find them open-mouthed watching things that horrified me on MTV and other channels. Class over, television back to controlled videos and children back on and engaged with the world.

  • I could cite all kinds of research. I could tell you Psychology Today reports that:

    • In America there are on average more televisions in our homes than people or almost three per household.

    • Television has a negative impact on children's cognitive development, or ability to problem solve and think.

    • Children spend an average of one and a half hours a day watching television and a third of children have the set running in the background all day long.

    • The Journal of Communication found that preschoolers who have a television in their room or running in the background have a weaker understanding of others' beliefs, desires and reduced thinking and problem solving abilities.

  • I could also tell you that researchers are looking at possible links between television watching, Autism and Attention deficit Disorder. But, I don't think frightening you will convince you.

  • Instead, I offer our great Television Free Family experiment. We had movies, books and entertainment but to this day our favorite form of entertainment is laughs around the dinner table together.

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  • The result of our Television Free Family experiment is a family that is seriously bonded to each other and to this day enjoys each other's company. The benefits of our years without television include:

    • Creative children.

    • Industrious children.

    • Children who love to volunteer and help others.

    • Children with excellent motor skills.

    • Children with amazing social skills.

  • Join us and choose to limit your child's television watching. At the very least choose to only consume quality entertainment as a family. Good things in, good things out. As a family we stream movies, great speakers and quality entertainment that we choose. We can filter out the static and choose the best.

  • This year commit to choose quality over television:

    • Read a book together.

    • Go for a walk.

    • Play.

  • Play without TV.

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Shannon and Erin are a mother and daughter with lots of children and Utah and Oregon roots.

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