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How many TVs are there in your home? Do you watch too much TV? Is TV sapping the life from you without you even realizing it? Do you find yourself with not enough time for God, but enough for Scandal? Are your goals languishing unmet while you spend your time on yet another home makeover show with a foregone conclusion (spoiler alert: they love it). Tough questions for a tough subject.
Taking control of our own television viewing is a must if we are going to meet goals, read books, and train our children to do things others than sit in front of a TV set and be entertained. Another post will deal with children and TV directly. But this is directed at you: moms and dad, adults who need to get control.
The number of televisions owned by the average household in the United States has declined in recent years to 2.3, from an all-time high of 2.6 in 2009. That’s good news. At the same time, the number of households with no TV has increased from 1.3% to 2.6%. Also good news. If those TVs are not being replaced with computers that stream television shows.
Reasons to tame the TV
TV wastes time. Time is a limited and precious commodity. We each only have 24 hours every day, and many obligations, like jobs and the need for sleep, fill most of that time. We often are left with fewer than five or six hours a day to fit in the things we want to do. Things like Bible study, conversing with our children and spouse, engaging in hobbies, reading a book, or working towards a long-term goal.
TV provides unrealistic expectations. From the twenty-somethings that live in upscale apartments in New York City, to the super thin and gorgeous actors on almost every show, to home makeovers with the best of everything including landscaping, granite countertops, and to-die-for showers, TV does not portray reality. It is a fantasy world where almost everything works out exactly as everyone thinks it should. Yet, too many times too many people have difficulty separating the fantasy from the reality.
TV takes you away from important relationships. All that time spent in front of the TV is time taken away from your spouse, your children, your grandchildren, your friends, and your church. You cannot nurture relationships and engage in meaningful conversations while watching the TV.
TV influences your spending habits. All those unrealistically beautiful homes, designer fashions, and even fast-food commercials breed discontent. “If only I had a nicer home, a better car, or a pizza, life would be better.” So we spend – often on credit – to get the things we think will satisfy and make life grand. It doesn’t work, and soon we’re spending more on something else. All because of the TV.
TV can sap your personal discipline. How do you feel after you watch three or four hours of TV? Energized or lethargic? Ready to run a 5K or ready for bed? Most people feel lethargic and unwilling to spend the effort to do what is needed. Tomorrow, they say. But tomorrow a new show is on.
TV puts you at greater risk of health problems. There is substantial research indicating a link between TV watching and obesity with its host of associated ills. If you want to be healthier, turn the TV off and put on your walking shoes.
TV influences your worldview. The real lives of doctors, nurses, lawyers, police officers, psychiatrists, and scientists do not resemble what we see on TV. Yet what we see influences our expectations of these and other people whom we may meet. There is even some question about whether watching crime shows influences jury decisions. This is referred to as The CSI Effect, named after the popular forensic crime drama. Although some evidence suggests that such shows don’t influence juries, more research needs to be done.
TV harms your ability to reason and problem-solve. The unreal world of television wraps up all problems in a neat 60-minute or less package. When we come to expect that problems of life can be solved easily and quickly, we are less willing to expend the mental and emotional energy to work through problems over the long term. Most problems in real life do not have neat, easy answers.
How to tame the TV
Monitor how much you watch. You can’t really get a handle on your TV watching unless you know how much you’re watching. So, record everything: Netflix, DVDs, network TV, sports, movies. Everything. Once you have this information, proceed in reclaiming your life. To motivate yourself even more, do the math to figure out how much time each year you waste on TV. If you watch 10 hours a week – which is conservative – you watch 520 hours a year, which is almost 22 days of TV watching each year.
Have only one TV. Do you really need to be able to watch TV in your bedroom, the kitchen, and the family room? Having only one TV will cut down on the availability simply because you are now sharing the one TV with the entire family – even if the entire family is only your husband. When football is on, nothing else can be.
Make it inconvenient to watch. You could move the one TV to a guest bedroom or home office. If moving the TV is not practical, how about hiding it in a cabinet instead of always having it out on display. Maybe you could arrange the furniture in your family room so that you must turn chairs around to see the TV. Use your imagination and see what you can come up with to make TV less convenient.
Lose Netflix and cable. If there are fewer choices of what to watch, you are less likely to watch too much. Instead of paying for service, get an indoor antenna. If you live in a metro area you should still be able to get most local channels. But binge-watching will be a thing of the past.
Read books. Although this really could be listed as an alternative to TV, it is so much healthier for your brain than TV that I decided to include it here. Make a daily commitment to reading at least one chapter each evening. Make a weekly date at the library to get a book, not a DVD. You’ll save money and exercise your imagination at the same time.
How will you attack your TV habit?