One day my husband came into my office with a calculator in hand. “I just heard something on the radio about television viewing,” he said, “but I don’t think I’m figuring this correctly. I have to be wrong. According to my calculations, if you watch two hours of television a day …” He began punching calculator buttons. “… then that’s 730 hours a year – divide by 24 – that’s 30 solid 24-four hour days of doing nothing but watching television!”
We calculated and recalculated those numbers and kept coming up with the same thing. If you watch two hours of television a day, seven days a week, then you have spend one entire month out of your year doing nothing but sitting on your butt in front of the boob tube. Or, put another way, that’s three months’ worth of eight-hour days … wasted.
Worse, Nielsen Media reports that the average American watches, not two hours a day, but four. That’s two solid months a year. Six months of eight-hour days. Half of your work year. What could you do if you had an extra six months of eight-hour work days? I’ve felt for a long time that our nation is obsessed with TV, but this is ridiculous.
My concern about watching television is not necessary that of content – that’s a whole other topic – but of wasted time. Those two (or four) hours a day could be spent cooking a nice meal, playing Monopoly with your children, doing the legwork for a home business, or any number of things toward making your life more meaningful. You could read to your kids. Do yard work. Do charitable work. Watch the sunset. Read your Bible. Talk to your spouse. Take a walk. You get the idea.
Some people argue that television is necessary for relaxing after a hard day’s work. I see no advantage to zoning in front of the idiot box for hours on end to “relax.” At the end of your viewing, seldom are you refreshed or renewed. If you work that hard – and many people do – do you really want a faceless box sucking up all your remaining free time?
It is also a poor example to the rest of your family. Do you yell at the kids to keep the noise down … because it interferes with your TV viewing? If so, you have your priorities seriously mixed up.
But my biggest concern about television is children. The average child between the ages of 2 and 5 watches three and a half hours per day. What are they learning during this time? Consumerism? Moral relativism? Disrespect for parental authority? Revisionist history? The list is endless.
The point is not that kid’s television programs are bad, though they frequently are. It’s that when kids are watching TV, they aren’t doing anything else. They’re not running, or playing, or reading, or dreaming, or socializing. They’re not building muscles by building tree forts, or jumping rope, or playing tag. Children don’t need better television programs. They need less time in front of the one-eyed glass god.
Recently, I saw a magazine advertisement that stopped me in my tracks. The ad featured two otherwise beautiful children staring zombie-like at a television. In bold letters below the children was the word “HELP.”
At first I thought, “Good. Someone is trying to break those poor kids loose from the grip of the stupid television.” Then I read the text of the ad:
“The average American child spends close to four hours a day planted in front of a television. Which is why [name of company] is happy to sponsor the [name of an "educational" television series]. Charming characters present classic, positive stories that help you guide your children through the kinds of lessons you actually want them to learn. Courage. Honesty. Responsibility. After all, what better place to reach your children than right where they already are.”
Does anyone else find this logic revolting?
No expectation that the parents should actually take responsibility for their own children’s moral teachings. God forbid that you should have to interact with the little tykes. Instead, stick ‘em in front of the TV and turn their brains to mush so you don’t have to be bothered.
These TV shows are supposed to teach responsibility (and courage and honesty) when the kids’ parents aren’t even willing to have the courage and honesty to take responsibility themselves. Huh?
Children who are plugged into a television set from their earliest years never learn to play. They never develop the imagination to play. Nor will they ever learn the moral lessons you want them to learn.
Stop turning your kids into zombies. Turn them into people instead. Good, decent, honest, courageous, responsible people. You took the job; now do the job.
I can’t argue that all television is bad. It can sometimes alleviate loneliness. The elderly, for example, can often fill otherwise empty days by watching television. And it can be educational. When I have access to television, I love the History Channel. And when a breaking news event happens, I metaphorically tip my hat to the reporters who work so hard bringing that event to our attention (assuming it’s not a “spin” to support some political bias of the network).
But enough is enough.
Look, if you want to fill all your spare time sitting on your butt watching the boob tube, you’re certainly free to do so. We are a culture entrenched in television, and my petty griping isn’t going to change anyone’s habits.
But if this describes you, then don’t you ever dare whine again about how you don’t have enough time to start a home business, or fix up the house, spend time with your kids, get an extra job to pay off debt, or learn that foreign language. Ever. You have plenty of time – a month of 24-hour days, or three whole months of eight-hour days – if you’d just kill your TV.