The big tube to nowhere

9192_6546The latest news from this past year involving our great North American pastime:

  • Wondering how many more times we need to be reminded about the switch from analog to digital before February? One would think that something really important, such as Jesus’ return was happening, as often as we have been reminded! The latest in awareness building techniques: scrolling “Important Announcement” banners at the bottom of the TV screen with this earth-shaking reminder.
  • Gotta’ have it all the time and in all places: free public restrooms operated by the Charmin toilet paper company in Times Square during the upcoming Christmas season will have flat screen TV’s. Charmin promises “tourists will feel like kings before making their royal flushes.” (Associated Press, GR Press, 11.28.08)
  • Unhappy people watch more TV – up to an extra 5.6 hours per week compared to happier people, who spend more time socializing, reading, and participating in religious activities, according to a study of 40,000 people aged 18 to 64. Lead study author and sociologist John Robinson from the University of Maryland states: “It could be that watching television makes you unhappy, but there is also the question of whether people who are unhappy turn to television as a way to ward off their unhappiness.” (Donna St. George, Washington Post as quoted in G.R. Press, 11.28.08)
  • Children who watched more than 3 hours of television per day between ages 5 and 11 had more attention problems as teenagers, as noted by a long-term study of over 1,000 children in New Zealand and published in Pediatrics journal. (Washington Post, as cited in Grand Rapids Press, 11.13.07)
  • Boys’ (ages 8-18) use of time – 6.5 hours per day with media; therefore boys spend about 45.5 hours a week total – more than a full time job! (Boys Should be Boys by Meg Meeker, M.D.)
  • Alarming statistic that likely hasn’t improved: the top TV show choice among kids 9-12 in 2005 was . . . Desperate Housewives –  “a “satire” in which suicide is glorified and slutty married women commit adultery with their gardeners . . . (this show) continues to be one of the current top rated shows that make a complete mockery of the sanctity of marriage.” (As quoted from:
  • A three-year Rand Corporation study is the first of its kind to link sexy TV shows and teen pregnancy.
  • Media use may impact sleep quantity and quality of  children – see this link.
  • Our addiction to media consumption: 9.5 hours a day: TV – 3 hours, Internet – 90 minutes, radio – 30 minutes, radio – 2.5 hours, recorded music – 85 minutes, magazines – 15 minutes, reading a book – 3 minutes. (Why We Hate Us by Dick Meyer.) Obviously the book reading figure is disconcerting. To quote Mark Twain on book reading: “The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who cannot read them.”
  • An encouraging sign: parents are setting greater restrictions on TV watching and reading more to kids than in 1994, according to the 2004 U.S. census. For 3-5 year olds, 68% had TV watching rules, 71% of 6-11 year olds, and 47% of 12-17 year olds. (Grand Rapids Press, 11.1.07) Of course one could argue that the content of TV has also deteriorated in ten years, thus making it an easier choice. Also one could wonder why 100% of kids don’t have TV watching rules, especially at the younger ages.
  • In a study released December 2, 2008 by the National Institutes of Health and Yale University, researchers found that 80% of all studies done on media since 1980 show a negative connection between health and media use. Reviewed were studies that measured media effects on obesity, tobacco, drug and alcohol use, sexual behavior, low academic achievement and ADHD.

How much more evidence do we need before we start changing our habits? There is increasing evidence that kids want to spend more time with parents, but some parents seem intent on making other choices. Do we lack the will, the spiritual discipline to limit TV? Is TV consuming our souls and contributing to sucking the life out of us?

(Feel free to copy all or part of this post to send on to parents in a newsletter – just please acknowledge the source.)

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Filed under discernment, kids/culture, parenting, resources

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