Family's TV is used for special occasions

Sunday, May 19, 2002

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. -- People are always asking Central High School junior Joel Mathews how he can live without TV.

"I say, 'I don't know. I've never lived with one,"' he said.

"We're known at school as the kids without a TV," said older brother Ben, a senior. "You get an answer right in class, and they're like, 'Oh. Yeah, they don't even have a TV."'

To Ben, Joel, and their younger brother, Luke, an eighth-grader at Edison Middle School, it was no big deal recently when other people observed national "TV Turn Off Week." They never even had a set to turn off until about two years ago, when friends gave them an old one that the Mathews family had occasionally borrowed.

Wasted time

They keep the TV in a basement storage room, pulling it out only for big events such as Sept. 11, the Olympics and University of Nebraska football games. The last time the Mathews family recalls using the set was in March to watch the Illinois and Kansas games.

"My husband and I both grew up with TV," Pat Mathews said. "When we got married -- we are Christians -- we decided that TV had changed so much that we didn't want that kind of influence in our home. Every time we do see prime-time TV, I'm convinced we made the right decision.

"There's lots of sex on TV which was not the case when I was growing up in the early '60s. It seems that family life was really emphasized then. Now, if it's weird, it's glamorized. There's a lot of sarcasm and vicious humor. I don't think a steady diet of that does anybody good."

Pat Mathews said she took time off from teaching in the late 1970s to raise her sons and noticed a big difference in kids when she returned to work six years ago as a librarian at Dr. Howard Elementary School.

"I know there are a lot of variables, but TV must have something to do with it," she said. "When you ask how many hours kids watch TV, it's remarkable."

American children are said to watch an average of three to four hours a day.

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