Russ Young: Time to turn off the TV
Turn off the television. Such a plea may seem a bit anachronistic in an era when watching TV is supposedly being eclipsed by Internet use, but it is still one we would do well to listen to. Considering the endearing epithets which TV has worked h...
Turn off the television. Such a plea may seem a bit anachronistic in an era when watching TV is supposedly being eclipsed by Internet use, but it is still one we would do well to listen to. Considering the endearing epithets which TV has worked hard to earn, such as "boob tube," "Great American Wasteland" and "the idiot box," there is precious little to lose and much, in terms of valuable time, to gain.
There are actually contradictory reports of how much TV Americans now watch on average. In September of last year the Bureau of Labor Statistics released its report, on data from 2004, which suggested that there had been a decrease in the average number of hours Americans watch TV. Depending on the particular demographic, their report showed Americans spending 2.4 to 2.8 hours a day in front of the television.
One month later, A.C. Nielsen came out with a differing report. Contrary to what many believed and expected, Nielsen reported TV habits for most Americans had actually increased to a record high. Their report showed the typical American sitting in front of televison sets for a full 4 1/2 hours each day. At the same time they released a report of historic viewing habits which demonstrated Americans have had a steadily increasing diet of viewing time from the very birth of commercial televison.
No matter which report is more accurate the numbers add up to roughly two months of non-stop TV-watching per year, per person. The sad news means watching televison is the third most prolific activity for the majority of Americans. Only sleep and work take up more of our time.
Still, another report, from the watchdog group Media Life, shows a new trend of simultaneous TV viewing and Internet use has also been rising exponentially.
The effects of such habits have now been amply demonstrated to be detrimental. In fact, TV-Free America, with the backing of Rutgers University psychologist Robert Kubey, says that "Millions of Americans are so hooked on television that they fit the criteria for substance abuse as defined in the official psychiatric manual."
The American Medical Association, armed with 2,888 out of 3,000 studies on TV violence, concurs that television viewing is "a public health problem." It concludes that violent shows have "a causal factor in real-life mayhem," across all segments of society.
The amazing thing to me is that, despite all the evidence, and all the lists of facts and statistics that could be cited about the pestilence of watching television, we still choose to spend so much time watching it. Coming back to our government study; it concluded, "Typically we have between 4.2 and 5.6 hours each day which we can use indiscriminately."
This means that almost all of our available free time is handily consumed each day by what Ernie Kovacs once retorted is called a medium "because it is neither rare, nor well done."
William Penn rightly said that "Time is what we want most, but what we use worst."
Time is truly a precious commodity, and since we all have only so much of it, it behooves us to redeem it wisely. Imagine how much better off we would be if we simply used our time differently.
One may well ask, in light of all the ills facing our society, can turning off the TV really make a difference? The answer is a resounding, "Yes, it can," but unless you try it for yourself, you will not be likely to believe it. I realize that the 2006 TV-Turnoff Week has already passed, but it is not too late to participate.
The computer adage "garbage in, garbage out," is a good one. Why not replace the junk food of TV this week with a balanced diet of good reading? This means classics, not the book version of the latest movies. What have you got to lose? The answer is a meaningful life. After all, as J. Oswald Sanders in his classic work on leadership noted, it is how we choose to use our indiscriminate free time that determines whether one will live a life of mediocrity or excellence.
Russ Young, Christian, free-lance writer and a former pastor, may be reached at RussYoung@thelifeline.net .