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No. 1

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Doc’s Digest
Medical Advice from Dr. Sayre
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Who Needs TV?

I’ve said for years, when you have kids, who needs TV? In the Sayre household, we are never at a loss for entertainment! Sometimes I wonder if a National Geographic special could be made by secretly filming the Sayre family for a week or two. We are constantly either observing some unusual example of human behavior, or reminiscing about the past antics of our children.


I recently laughed until I got wheezy, recalling something that occurred while sitting in church. Two-year-old Daniel was uncommonly squirmy. Now, it’s not unusual for Daniel to need a firm hand in church, but on this occasion, even Daddy’s evil eye was insufficient to squelch the wiggle worm.

“Daniel, what is your problem?!” I asked impatiently through clenched teeth.

Being a young man of few words, he just kept pointing to his nose and saying, “Gum.” The gums and the nose are in close proximity, so I figured he needed a lesson in anatomy. But Mary, being more intuitive than I, knew there was something more. She gathered him up in her arms and took him out to the foyer. Peering up his nose, she could see the source of the irritation. Putting her hand out, she asked him to blow.

Daniel had just celebrated his second birthday, and on that occasion, “to blow” meant to try and extinguish the candles on the cake. He was therefore understandably confused. After Daniel attempted several times to blow through his lips, Mary used the old show-and-tell routine.

Daniel wasn’t potty trained yet, but he was no dummy, and so on the next attempt he blew through his nose, firing a wad of gum into Mary’s outstretched hand. He was not nearly as shocked as she was, because before she could even congratulate him on his successful nasal disimpaction, he snatched the gum from her hand and shoved it back into his mouth. Yuck!

Since most individuals reading this article have children of their own, may I dare to repeat the question of the opening sentence, “When you have kids, who needs TV?”

Scripture states, “[C]hildren are a gift of the Lord, The fruit of the womb is a reward” (Psalm 127:3; New American Standard Bible). It goes without saying that one must accept a gift in order to enjoy it. Further, only by devoting attention to the gifts God has given can we realize the rewards that He has promised.

By comparison, the rewards of devoting time and attention to the television are far outweighed by the negative consequences. Not only does television watching siphon untold hours of precious time we parents could be spending with our children, but it has a variety of deleterious effects on our kids as well. For example, a study published in the Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine in 2002 found that

Overall viewing time had a negative relationship with social and school achievement scores. Other scores that were negatively affected by increased television viewing time included withdrawal, social problems, thought problems, attention problems, delinquent behavior, aggressive behavior, and externalization. The total problem scores on the Child Behavior Checklist were higher in group 3, indicating more problems in this group than in children who watched less television per day.

The authors conclude that the more time children spend watching television per day, the more likely they are to have behavior problems, according to the Child Behavior Checklist. This negative effect on behavior occurs regardless of program content.*

There are many other studies and articles written concerning television and its effects on the human race, but this well-constructed study provides an excellent summary of the damage inflicted on our children. In a previous “Doc’s Digest” column, I have commented regarding sedentary activities such as television watching and their contribution to the current epidemic of childhood obesity. By now the picture should be getting clearer on my personal feelings regarding America’s preoccupation with television!

On a personal note (as if the first few paragraphs are not personal enough!), when I was about 9 years old I balked at coming to the dinner table, because I was engrossed in the weekly episode of Lost in Space. Before I could even find out why the robot was saying, “Danger, Will Robinson!” my father pulled the plug on the TV and carted it off to the basement as punishment. We are not talking about a finished basement, where I could sneak off and catch an hour or two of my favorite shows. This was a cobweb-infested, dirt-floored place where no child ever ventured without a parent close at hand. There sat the TV for the remainder of my childhood, gathering dust and providing a home for a family of mice. Thus, my television exposure during those crucial formative years of my life was limited. In retrospect, I am so thankful to my parents for their wisdom, and to my father for his leadership, in this regard!

Can I give you a bit of advice, both as a father and a physician? Take a hard look at your family’s television habits. Don’t be afraid to make some tough (and likely unpopular) calls limiting the TV’s use.

You may even choose, as my father did, to send the TV to the cellar! It will free up a lot of time for you to enjoy your children, and help you to see them for the gift they truly are.


* E. Ozmert, et al., “Behavioral Correlates of Television Viewing in Primary School Children Evaluated by the Child Behavior Checklist,” Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine 156 (September 2002): 910-14, abstract in Karl E. Miller, “Children’s Behavior Correlates with Television Viewing,” American Family Physician 67, no. 3 (February 1, 2003): 593-94.

About the author

An HSLDA board member since 1997, Dr. Rodger Sayre is a family physician, and his wife Mary is a registered nurse. They live in Tunkhannock, Pennsylvania, and teach their 11 children at home. Dr. Sayre received his medical degree from Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia and maintains board certification in family practice. A Geisinger Medical Group associate with a busy practice in Nicholson, Pennsylvania, he is a member of the Christian Medical Association, the American Academy of Family Physicians, and the American College of Sports Medicine.

Please Note

The views of guest columnists may not reflect the views of Home School Legal Defense Association.