By The Progressive on May 09, 2014

This week, Americans are seeing hundreds of ads claiming to know what mom really wants for Mother’s Day and inducing you to buy it for her.

But if you ask most mothers for their wish list, they won’t tell you they want candy, flowers or jewelry. They’re likely to say the best gift would be uninterrupted time with their children, and the assurance that their children are healthy.

Mothers want to share time that is not diluted by TV, texting or video games.

This may seem like a simple order to fill, but according to a recent study by the Kaiser Family Foundation, the average young American spends practically every waking minute that he or she is not in school plugged in to an electronic device.

Children 8 years of age and older spend an average of six hours a day on electronic media. Kids 6 years and younger spend an average of two hours a day watching TV.

So it is appropriate that this year’s Screen-Free Week — formerly known as TV Turnoff Week — overlaps with Mother’s Day.

Families that unplug for one week will be spared from seeing more than 200 acts of violence, and children will be shielded from nearly 800 commercials.

One of the reasons Screen-Free Week is endorsed by 65 national organizations, including the American Medical Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the National Education Association, is that television is bad for the physical and emotional health of children.

Screen time is an identified factor in childhood obesity. Today, 20 percent of American children are overweight, and half of those are severely overweight. Compare this to 1965, when 5 percent of children were overweight. Other factors contribute to this, but the prevalence of ads for junk food and candy aimed at kids surely doesn’t help.

Kids who watch TV on a daily basis show significant decreases in reading levels, problem-solving skills and creative expression. By contrast, children whose screen time is limited do better in school and read more than their peers who consume high levels of electronic media.

Excessive screen time is linked to increased psychological difficulties, such as hyperactivity and aggression in adolescents. A connection has also been made between screen time and risky behavior like drinking, smoking and drug use.

This year, when you see ads for a terrific Mother’s Day gift, remember you’ve already got the perfect one: your time and attention. But in order to give it, we need to unplug the TV and plug into real life.

Jennifer Coburn is the author of “We’ll Always Have Paris: A Mother-Daughter Travel Memoir.” She can be reached at pmproj@progressive.org.

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By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.


Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).

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