Day 8: Family Media Detox

Jim’s Update – (It’s his weekly newspaper column in the Monmouth Review-Atlas)

“The Family Media Detox Challenge”

By Jim Bennett

Things are a little different around the parsonage these days. We are in the midst of a burgeoning cultural renaissance.

The Mrs. and I, along with our children, have agreed to give up television, movies, video games, mp3 players and social networking for the month of September.

This started when we cancelled our Dish Network subscription in August. It was an unnecessary expense at a time when we’ve been tightening our belts anyway, but frankly, this isn’t merely a financial decision. It’s more like CPR for the mind.

How vividly I remember my point of reckoning. I was engrossed in the third hour of the “Phineas and Ferb” marathon. There I was on the couch, paralyzed in a state of catatonic distraction at the animated spectacle playing out on the television, when an unusually grotesque cartoon character appeared on the screen.

“Who is that slack-jawed, drooling, glaze-eyed dolt?” I thought to myself.

And then I came to the horrible, undeniable conclusion that I had merely caught a glimpse of my own reflection on the screen.

“WHAT HAVE I BECOME?” I cried.

It’s true: The collective brow of our household had sunk lower than a cockroach in a coal cart, and the stench of skull rot that had been hanging heavy in the air was traced directly to that black box on the entertainment center.

But it wasn’t just me. Our children were being regularly lulled into the throes of imbecility as well. Case in point: They were loyal viewers of a program called “The Suite Life on Deck.” As near as I could tell, it’s the story of seaborne twins afflicted with terminal ADHD whose entire lives are devoted to constructing elaborate plots to alternately kiss, or avoid being kissed by, various young girls. To make the show even more repulsive, the whole thing is set on a cruise ship but it doesn’t involve Captain Stubing.

That, my friends, is unacceptable.

"Gopher, summon Zack and Cody from the Lido deck and keelhaul them until we reach Puerto Vallarta."

Though The Mrs. has a highly sophisticated entertainment palate, I did inadvertently cause her to question her interest in a dramatic tour-de-force called “House.” (Incidentally, if you thought Gavin McLeod was conspicuous in his absence from “The Suite Life on Deck,” brace yourself: I feel it’s my duty to warn you that “House” does not feature so much as a cameo appearance by Bob Villa.)

She had her own epiphany when I interrupted her viewing of the show to innocently ask, “Is this the episode with the patient who has mysterious symptoms that elude diagnosis until someone makes a casual remark to Dr. House which provokes a faraway look in his eye and then he instantly determines the true nature of the disease and renders lifesaving treatment seconds before death?”

“Yes,” she said. “It’s that episode.”

A moment later she bolted upright in realization and declared, “Great googly-moogly! They’re ALL that episode!”

Dang. Busted.

We were definitely wasting far too many hours on the Internet. As a pastor and a writer I find it to be a most handy tool; the online concordances and expositors’ dictionaries, the news and editorial websites … all of these are almost indispensable to me. But how badly do I need to watch a video of a litter of kittens fitted with tiny boxing gloves batting at a helium balloon?

And Facebook? That beast has become a virtual repository of passive-aggressive snark. I finally gave it up after surveying the landscape of status updates and realizing that I hadn’t seen that much angst and drama since I attended 8th grade cotillion in the Lincoln School gym.

So we talked about it as a family and agreed on this little experiment.

That was one week ago. Since then, the household has become a veritable salon of creative brilliance and refinement. For example, my 12-year-old son Jamie, in ascot and monocle, now extends his pinky when sipping Yoo-hoo.

My daughter Hannah, who is 9, has just completed an arrangement of Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 3 in D minor, Opus 30, for slide whistle.

Listening in on the droll witticisms exchanged by the seven children at supper is like eavesdropping on a gathering of the Algonquin Roundtable (except I don’t believe Dorothy Parker ever called George S. Kaufman a “smelly stupid-face”).

Even I have risen to the occasion, becoming a gourmet chef. Why, just last night, I spent hours in the kitchen, perfecting a sour cream-caper sauce to go with the salmon I smoked.

(Don’t worry. I didn’t inhale.)

For more information regarding Dave Ramsey’s life changing youth bible study, Generation Change, call 888-22-PEACE or go to daveramsey.com. Generation Change is a youth bible study on money and materialism.

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9 responses to “Day 8: Family Media Detox

  1. Much of the tween TV that is currently available promotes bickering and squabbling. We found that allowing our daughter to watch programs like the Suite Life on Deck had a direct impact on her speech. We had two TV free week challenges this summer that my daughter embraced. From that experience, I’d suggest a family meeting at the end of your month to discuss long term changes in regards to how you use your time and what shows you watch. Our daughter now watches no more than 5 hours of TV per week and most of that is about science or technology.

  2. Your bookshelf looks beautiful! Also, Asher wants to watch these videos on a loop. And, I’m offended that my comments don’t mean as much to you as those from people you don’t know! hmph!

    • Your comments are our bread and butter, baby…but I expect YOU to think we’re cool…otherwise what does that say about you? That whole nature/nurture thing is driving pretty hard to the hoop there! 🙂

      We’re going to make sure we get some footage of Asher tomorrow, so imagine how excited he’ll be to see himself on the show Saturday! I could punch my own self in the face for not thinking to get a few minutes of Kayla and Jayla while they were here today! Aargh!

  3. You all are hilarious! Love it! You have my support from Atlanta Georgia!
    Jenny Shain

  4. Pat McGee Williams

    Thanks for sharing and believe God is enjoying this also.

  5. I am loving your media detox. I’ve found it interesting that users of texting and facebook claim “oh, but you are able to stay connected to so many people” while they are disconnecting from real face-to-face (or voice-to-voice) conversations! Of course I’m thrilled that Jim is back in the Review Atlas. We need to do another girls night!

  6. Karen Meyer Robbins

    I agree too much tv is not best for quality time for family. Board games, taking walks, bike riding. Watching the sunrise and sunet with loved ones. Meals together with the tv off. It’s a plus on cutting back on expenses, easy and painless in my opinion.

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