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Parker brothers earn $$ — by giving up TV for year

SHARE Parker brothers earn $$ — by giving up TV for year

Jim Parker is proud of his boys. He's proud — even though they are about to cost him a lot of money.

A year ago this August, he cut a deal with two of his children, 12-year-old Todd and 9-year-old Jeffrey. He agreed to hand over $500 to each of them if they gave up TV, video games and movies for a year.

Parker says he may have to take out a loan.

In return for shelling out $1,000, this is what Parker and his wife, Janice, gained: More time with their two youngest. More time playing board games. More time just chatting.

A year ago, Parker says, his children were addicted. "They almost didn't have a life outside of TV and video games."

Even while he praises them, Parker acknowledges his boys are not unique. He knows other children have made similar bargains and made money by giving up television — or chocolate, or soft drinks.

In the case of the Parker family, it was actually 14-year-old Scott who first negotiated the $500 pledge. When his little brothers found out about it, they wanted in.

After five days, Scott gave up and plunked himself in front of the screen. His brothers struggled on.

Jeffrey says the first three weeks were the hardest. He was "used to" Nintendo and cartoons — Pokémon and Spiderman. Luckily he didn't have a computer or TV in his room, he says. He didn't have to be reminded about what he was missing.

Jeffrey got in the habit of coming home from school, doing his homework, then heading outside with a soccer ball. Todd also began doing his homework right after school. And suddenly, he noticed, school was a whole lot easier.

When his homework was done, Todd drew comic strips. He also discovered he loves to write stories. Both boys rode their bikes a lot. Both boys also read a lot, their dad says. They also complained — a lot — every time a new video game came on the market.

At school, word got around pretty fast that the Parker boys were without video.

On the first day of math, Todd's teacher wanted to teach graphing by showing how many hours per day each student watches TV. Todd said, "Zero." His classmates just stared.

After class, kids offered sympathy. "This is so sad. It's awful. Is it because your family can't afford a TV?"

When they turned off the TV, the Parker boys took a big risk. They might have become social outcasts. Fortunately, their friends were cool about it. Some were even supportive.

Todd's friend Jesse Colby says, "We've had to play a lot of games outside. Get on swings and stuff. It hasn't been too bad." Another friend, Stef Nelson, was inspired by the Parkers.

Stef tried to give up TV and video games but barely made it past a month, he says.

As the Parkers' anniversary approaches, their dad continues to tease them by turning on the television and trying to hold them in front of it. He says he'd do a double or nothing deal if they want to go for another year.

But the boys are firm: One year is enough.

The way Jesse sees it, there is nothing anyone could promise Todd to make him re-enlist. Not that his friend has been so desperate he's tried to cheat, or anything. "He hasn't wanted to do that," says Jesse. "But I think he's been, like, dying."

Janice Parker, however, doesn't believe her boys were near death. She might go so far as to say it was a healthy experience. Now, she says, they recognize what video addiction is. When they get their hands on Game Boy again, she thinks they'll want to control themselves. Set limits. "I'm not positive," she says. "But I'm hoping so."