Review: TV-B-Gone Silences Intrusive Television in Public Spaces

Photo of a TV-B-Gone unit and a key in the palm of a hand.

Preface: despite appearances, I am not entirely anti-television. Read the comment section for additional discussion.

TV-B-Gone by Cornfield Electronics is a universal TV remote with only one button: OFF. The unit is composed of a small plastic box with a button, infrared eye and key chain. Point the eye at a TV set, press the button and within seconds the TV turns off.

Why review this product on a baby blog? OK, here we go.

My 3-year-old daughter had her annual dental check-up this week. She sailed through like a champ with Mom holding her hand and Dad touching her sandal-covered foot and everyone smiling.

One thing annoyed me about the visit though. In a waiting room filled with people and stocked with plenty of magazines and excellent toddler toys, there was a flat screen TV centrally mounted on a wall showing cartoons and commercials.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends pediatricians “discourage television viewing for children younger than 2 years, and encourage more interactive activities that will promote proper brain development, such as talking, playing, singing and reading together.”

At 3, my daughter is blissfully uninterested in TV. She was also the only one in a dozen toddlers her age at a birthday party yesterday who could sign her birthday card. When other kids are watching TV, we’re learning and being active. Why mess with success?

Then I remembered, I won a TV-B-Gone at a Z Recommends contest a while back, but never used it. So I grabbed it from my car’s glove compartment, sat down in the waiting room, pointed the box, and *click* the TV turned off.

Nobody noticed. It was kind of anti-climatic. I wouldn’t have dared cause a ruckus if kids were watching the television, but this was an excellent example of TV intruding unnecessarily on our public life. The TV was background noise. People accepted its presence even when its presence served no purpose.

When our daughter’s name was called, we were ushered into a room that had a row of dental chairs, each one equipped with its own TV screen and headphones. Click. The TV in front of my daughter turned off. Click. The TV next to us in front of an empty chair turned off. A dental assistant introduced Little Miss to her tools, then examined the mouth.

Next, we were moved to a second row of chairs where the dentist would do a quick exam. Click. Click. The televisions turned off.

The dentist didn’t notice. The dental assistant didn’t notice. No one working in the office batted an eye. I felt like I was conducting a psychological experiment. Is TV that entrenched in our lives?

All of these TV sets were within arm’s reach, and I expect the office staff wouldn’t have minded me manually turning off the screens nearest my daughter. But it was far more interesting to see whether people viewed the TVs as important, or as pieces of furniture. Also, on an environmental level, a lot of energy is wasted running TVs in front of empty seats.

Now, about the device itself… it measures about 1.5 inches square and is a half-inch thick. The box functions as a sort of universal remote, cycling through “off” commands for hundreds of brands of television sets. Your TV will probably turn off quickly, but could take as long as 69 seconds as the remote transmits all of the “off” codes. Separate remotes are sold for American and Asian TVs versus European TVs.

The unit has a keychain, but I think the button could get pressed while jostling around in a pants pocket with keys. I’ll probably remove the keychain because it slid noisily against the hard plastic body as I was surreptitiously aiming it toward my electronic victims.

The device sells for $20 on the TV-B-Gone web site, but Z Recommends negotiated a 20 percent discount good through the end of June 2007 (previously advertised as ending in May). Use the coupon code THINKPICS. (Correction: the coupon code is good only for the Generation #2 model which contains all of the newest TV remote codes.) If reading this review after June, check RetailMeNot for other potential discounts.

And if you don’t buy it, and the need arises, summon up the courage to ask people if they’re watching the TV, then ask the room’s authority figure if he or she will turn the TV off. Or if you can, just do the deed yourself.


12 Responses to “Review: TV-B-Gone Silences Intrusive Television in Public Spaces”

  1. Miggy says:

    You said: “At 3, my daughter is blissfully uninterested in TV. She was also the only one in a dozen toddlers her age at a birthday party yesterday who could sign her birthday card. When other kids are watching TV, we’re learning and being active. Why mess with success?”

    I hate to say this but the former is entirely unrelated to the latter. My 4yo is the perfect example for a kid who has had quite her share of TV in her short life and who was able to read and write simple words (not just her name) at 3 years of age.

    She just turned 4 and is able to read and write pretty much anything you throw at her.

    June 15th, 2007 at 5:39 am

  2. Jeremiah says:

    Great review. We had exactly the same experience in a doctor’s office waiting room – there were four other people in the room, each doing their own thing, and no one even looked up when I cut off the TV with the TV-B-Gone. It was quite startling.

    Cornfield also sells their older “Generation 2″ TV-B-Gone at a discount, but the newer model has a lot of newer remote codes to keep up with the TV technology. The THINKPICS code only works for the latest model, which knocks the price down from $19.99 to $15.99.

    June 15th, 2007 at 7:13 am

  3. AJ says:

    Miggy, thanks for your perspective. My point was that in lieu of the (usually) solitary act of watching TV, we engage our daughter in other pursuits. It apparently set us apart from the other 3-ish-year-olds at the party who do get their share of videos… unless you’re saying those kids aren’t too bright, or my daughter is exceptionally smart. I think she is average and the difference is the experiences we’ve provided.

    And that’s not to say kids can’t learn from good videos (I’ll even be reviewing some here in a bit), but right now we prefer more interactive methods (“interactive” meaning between people, strengthening social skills at the same time).

    In my dentist example, instead of watching TV, my daughter played with a child slightly younger than her, an important act for us because she tends to be shy around new people, even little people.

    I’m happy your daughter turned out great. And I haven’t ruled out videos. I’m sure they’ll have their place in our home at some point.

    June 15th, 2007 at 8:54 am

  4. Amy says:

    My three year old daughter watches more TV than I like, but it has actually helped her. I am not a patient person and sitting and trying to teach her letters and numbers has back fired. But PBS has taught her to count to 20 and she can write her letters but she doesn’t know them. She developed a love for PBS when her favorite book Curious George became a series.

    I like your review for that product and your way of thinking for the most part. :)

    Since your daughter is kind of shy as you said before will you be doing a piece on getting children to be less shy?

    June 15th, 2007 at 2:01 pm

  5. Jackie H. says:

    Great Review! I have to get one of these! At a recent doctor’s appointment, the tv in the waiting area was so loud that I got up and turned it off. Unfortunately, the mean nurses scolded me and said that it needed to be on to protect the privacy of the patients as they were setting up their next appointments. This little device would have really come in handy!


    June 15th, 2007 at 5:13 pm

  6. Michele L. says:

    Wow! Have we become such an obtrusive society that we feel the need to monitor what OTHER people’s children watch and don’t watch? In a public place even! I’ve been a Montessori teacher for 7 years and I’m also the mother of a 4 year old and I honestly don’t think a little Dora the Explorer in the doctor’s waiting room is going to turn a child into a brainless moron. Granted there are many american children that watch WAY too much TV, but like everything else in life, it takes healthy moderation. I have a feeling this whole anti-television thing is a lot like the anti-carb diets of a few years ago. A slice of bread once in a while isn’t going to turn you obese, nor is a little television going to make your kid the village idiot!

    June 17th, 2007 at 1:58 pm

  7. AJ says:

    Michele, it is the TV set acting as the obtrusive force in these public situations. It exposes everyone within eyesight and earshot. Have we gone so far astray in our parenting that kids need to be sedated with television in waiting rooms?

    The waiting room I described was filled with magazines, books and toys. Why add TV to that mix? It’s entirely unnecessary, and sometimes, unwanted.

    June 17th, 2007 at 4:17 pm

  8. katherine says:

    heh…I want that to protect myself from the soap operas that are on volume 29 in the gym…….

    June 20th, 2007 at 8:55 pm

  9. Mama Luxe says:

    What a cool item!

    As you mentioned, you would have turned it back on if anyone had protested–but they did not even notice!

    Now that I have my baby, the TV just drives me insane (short trip). Too much over-stimulation–for me! I also hate the way she just stares like a zombie the few times she has seen TV.

    I have had the same experience in the waiting room where no one is watching it but I keep having to rearrange myself to limit my baby’s view of the TV.

    The only think I watch with her sometimes is Baby Signing Time–but I prefer to have her around other babies and parents signing then with the DVD.

    You know they’ve just found a link between early TV viewing and autism? I know, I know, what hasn’t been linked to autism…And I am sure it will be a while, if ever, before they can prove or disprove a causal effect.

    Regardless, TV just seems so unnecessary 90% of the time.

    Next time I am somewhere and there is a TV no one is watching, I think I’ll ask everyone if I can turn it off.

    Wow…a product review that is actually inspiring. I will be back to read more.

    June 22nd, 2007 at 4:33 pm

  10. Stan M says:

    I just MUST get one of these. We had our latest TV bombardment at 8:00 this morning in the waiting room of the pain clinic where my wife is being treated. I turned off the tube, and the only other person waiting, a young woman who was sprawled across three chairs reading “People” magazine, had a hissy fit. WE were forced to choose between TV bombardment in the nice waiting room, or less comfortable seating out in the hall. Worse still, the sprawling young lady was allowed to act the part of the injured party.

    What is it with so many Americans, especially the younger generations, that they cannot abide a single moment of silence, without the need to fill it with TV, iPod “music” or a pointless cell phone conversation? Are people THAT frightened to be alone with their own thoughts?

    July 6th, 2007 at 1:32 pm

  11. khoa says:

    how can i get one ,…and is there one to change channells aswell from one room to the next (pay t,v set top box) that s cause i have a foxtel box in the lounge room an only want to change channels from my bedroom, ( i think i need 2 infer red eye,one at the foxtel box an one in my bedroom t.v ) P.S – so can u help………………..


    June 28th, 2008 at 7:46 pm

  12. khoa says:

    about my channell changer any answers pls reply to THX PAL

    June 28th, 2008 at 7:49 pm