I’m still seeing and receiving advice on improving grades and test scores that fails to include the elimination of one activity that doesn’t cost a dime, that promotes reading and has also been proven to help prevent childhood obesity.

Yes, I mean turning off the TV, but now there is even more of a reason to quit. According to a recent study of a survey of nearly 30,000 American adults conducted between 1975 and 2006 as part of the General Social Survey, it turns out that unhappy people watch 30% more television than happy people.

I thought of this survey when I read of the complaints in the Daily Pilot about the cable service provided by Time-Warner.

Perhaps those complainers are unhappy because they’re Time-Warner customers.

Or it could be that these TV watchers are not exercising as much as they should, which has been known to reduce stress and make you happier.

I also thought of the survey when I read about the average cable bill in the United States, which is running about $70 a month.

That totals $840 a year, folks, and at a time when retirement funds have dropped faster than the ratings of “Heroes,” it seems to me that a lot of folks should be watching every cent.

That $840 still buys a lot these days. It’s almost twice that of the average amount spent by Americans on Christmas gifts each year, which is another good use for the money not spent on cable TV.

I happen to be a very happy Time-Warner customer. Time-Warner is my Internet service provider, and not only did the cable guy show up on time for the initial installation, the company’s technical support since then has been excellent, and every invoice is perfect.

The real benefit to turning off the tube is to kids. Parents should feel free to watch as much “Survivor” or “Kitchen Naturals” as they can handle. But to set this example for developing children, or to allow them to watch more than one hour a day should be considered child endangerment.

Yes, it does seem incredible to me that an otherwise responsible mother, Ellen “Treffly” Coyne, was arrested almost a year ago on suspicion of child endangerment, but no such fate awaits those parents who allow their kids to sit in front of the television for hours.

Coyne was arrested in December when she left her toddler behind, asleep in her car, so she could go with her other young daughters and donate money to a Salvation Army kettle for a few minutes. Prosecutors later declined to press charges. Her other two daughters had collected $8.29 in change to donate to the annual kettle drive, but the youngest, Phoebe, was asleep so Coyne parked the car, turned it off, locked it up and ran over to the kettle to take pictures with the other kids for a few minutes. When they returned a suburban Chicago police officer was there to arrest her.

This year, this month, in fact, there is even more ammunition for turning off the TV. You’ve known for years that it’s bad for kids, but now you know that you may be happier if you turn it off. Plus, you could really use that $840 right about now.

In fact, the only downside to turning off your television is that you won’t have Time-Warner to kick around anymore.

STEVE SMITH is a Costa Mesa resident and a freelance writer. Send story ideas to

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