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Marie Winn

  • [Television viewing] is a one-way transaction that requires the taking in of particular sensory material in a particular way, no matter what the material might be. There is, indeed, no other experience in a child's life that permits quite so much intake while demanding so little outflow.

  • Parents may overemphasize the importance of content in considering the effects of television on their children because they assume that the television experience of children is the same as their own. But there is an essential difference between the two: the adult has a vast backlog of real-life experiences; the child does not. ... His subsequent real-life activities will stir memories of television experiences, not, as for the adult watcher, the other way around. To a certain extent the child's early television experiences will serve to dehumanize, to mechanize, to make less real the realities and relationships he encounters in life. For him, real events will always carry subtle echoes of the television world.

  • A disturbing possibility exists that the television experience has not merely blurred the distinctions between the real and the unreal for steady viewers, but that by doing so it has dulled their sensitivities to real events. For when the reality of a situation is diminished, people are able to react to it less emotionally, more as spectators.

  • Television's contribution to family life has been an equivocal one. For while it has, indeed, kept the members of the family from dispersing, it has not served to bring them together. By its domination of the time families spend together, it destroys the special quality that distinguishes one family from another, a quality that depends to a great extent on what a family does, what special rituals, games, recurrent jokes, familiar songs, and shared activities it accumulates.

  • In its effect on family relationships, in its facilitation of parental withdrawal from an active role in the socialization of their children, and in its replacement of family rituals and special events, television has played an important role in the disintegration of the American family.

Marie Winn, Czechoslovakian-born U.S. writer, journalist, birdwatcher, Wall Street Journal columnist.


It’s difficult to overstate the importance, brilliance, and astonishing prescience of The Plug-In Drug. If only, if only people had taken it seriously 30+ years ago, this would be quite a different country today. Better? Who knows. But different.