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For The Record

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Mark S. Fowler, chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, speaking at Arizona State University on Feb. 11:

I reject the premise that watching TV is decisive in molding a child's attitudes, beliefs, values, and behavior. Schools are likelier to influence the way a child grows and develops. The values taught by teachers and especially by classmates--from the sandbox to the playground to the chemistry lab--mold the world views of a child ...

And most important in the development of the child are parents and family. Television has never held itself out as a replacement for parenting, nor can it. Those parents who abdicate responsibility to television as their electronic babysitter should not expect TV, or government, to right their wrong. This phenomenon is not exclusively a problem of poor parents or even working parents but cuts across all types of families. Let us not blame television when the culprit is child neglect by a parent.

And bad parenting is no minor problem. Many kids are born into this world unloved, unwanted. What provokes the 12-year-old runaway? Not boredom from some silly cartoon shows; but disappointment from people who apparently excelled at bringing him into the world but show no interest in helping him through it. TV is no substitute for time spent with a child on homework or home life. Nor can it replace the need for parents to tell a child what they expect and for children to tell a mom or dad what they expect ...

To blame television for all of the woes faced by young children today or to use it--or more accurately misuse it--as a caretaker for kids is, I submit, a cop-out. Time spent before the television should be endowed with quality. Television is but a small piece of the myriad potent influences which shape a child's mind, heart and character; it's no substitute for parenting. We shoot dangerously wide of the mark when we believe it is.

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