Multiple media fall flat in certain households


The Senate Commerce Committee is taking testimony on the impact of violent video games on children, and I wish they had called me because I would have told them not to worry.

I know there is a mountain of evidence that television, movies, the Internet and video games are poisoning the gentle souls of children and creating sociopaths where delightful young people were before.

But I have conducted my own nonscientific survey of the multimedia landscape, and I am not convinced that television, et al., has had much of an impact. This whole cause-and-effect thing just doesn't hold up.

Let me explain.

I hate to drag her into this because she is such a whipping boy for the domestic shortcomings of American women. But face it, Martha Stewart is all over television and there is not a single viewer out there who can successfully execute one of her crafts. As a matter of fact, most women give up in the face of her perfection.

How powerful can the influence of television be if, despite daily doses of Martha, fewer American families are sitting down to dinner together with or without live centerpieces and handmade napkin rings?

And it cannot be said that television decorators Christopher Lowell and Lynnette Jennings have improved our habitats if most of us still think a floor cloth is something you use to wipe up after your kids have passed through the room with a drink.

Likewise, Bob Vila and Beverly DeJulio have demonstrated that you can finish off a basement family room, reroute a driveway or hang kitchen cabinets in the 30 minutes it takes to tape one of their weekend handy-person shows, and my husband hasn't done any of those things yet.

He has also seen every episode of Bob Ross's "Joy of Painting," but that joy must be vicarious because I keep having to hire painters.

He also cannot fly fish.

If it's true that children learn to handle firearms while playing shoot-em-up video games, then my son should be eligible for the National Football League draft, because he spends more time playing John Madden's NFL 2000 than he does sleeping.

If the Internet were really that insidious, then I would spend my time in the kitchen instead in front of the computer, where I print out recipes that I never execute. The same could be said of cooking shows, which have so far only inspired me to pour another glass of wine.

The Parents Television Council, which recently reported on the abundant sexual content on network and cable television, needn't worry. None of my women friends has found it to be contagious, at least not among adults.

Despite the best efforts of Maury Povich and Ricki Lake, I have not been tempted to seduce my daughter's boyfriend's stepfather, or anyone else in my immediate circle of acquaintances. Nor have I retained a single fact about the presidential candidates from the multiple Sunday morning news shows, except that Al Gore has changed the way he dresses for some reason and George W. Bush sounds exactly like his father.

As a matter of fact, the impact of these technologies is so negligible that the only result I have noticed in my family is that my daughter has learned to type.

Not because I invested in Mavis Beacon's computerized typing lessons (although I did), but because of AOL's Instant Messenger.

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