Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Television in America

All my life I've heard the stats. The conclusion many people draw appears self-evident: we (Americans) watch too much television. Here are some 2011 stats from a site called The Sourcebook for Teaching Science.

Percentage of households that possess at least one television: 99
Number of TV sets in the average U.S. household: 2.24
Percentage of U.S. homes with three or more TV sets: 66
Number of hours per day that TV is on in an average U.S. home: 6 hours, 47 minutes
Percentage of Americans that regularly watch television while eating dinner: 66
Number of hours of TV watched annually by Americans: 250 billion

The quantity of television being watched is so staggeringly high in some lives I have to believe they wonder what they'd be doing if they couldn't watch television. So I started a Facebook discussion to find a few people who do not watch much (or any) TV. Why are some people not watching television while others watch so much? And what do non-TV watchers do all day?

A website dedicated to the first four years of life, The Main Four, has its own reasons for being concerned about television viewing.

The average American teenager watches four hours a day of TV and spends almost two additional hours on the computer and playing video games. This is a distraction from studying and interacting with family members. And the numbers are growing. (EdNote: The latter two sentences could easily have been lifted from an article about smartphones.)

There is also an increase in television shows targeted for children, and the amount of children watching them. Seventy percent of daycare centers use television during the day. Several studies, one of which performed by the University of Michigan, say that this much screen time can be considered detrimental to children under three.

The first two years of life are considered a critical time for brain development. Some studies link early TV viewing with later attention problems, such as ADHD.

TV and other electronic media can get in the way of exploring, playing, and interacting with parents and peers, which encourages learning and healthy physical and social development. Almost two-thirds of families with children eat dinner while watching the tube.

In response to my initial FB discussion, Susan S. replied, "I don't watch TV, I don't have the black box. I haven't watched regular TV since before 9/11. I'd rather read, walk my dog or listen to NPR Minnesota or NPR Wisconsin. I don't miss TV all!!! I used to be a regular TV watcher during the 60's, lots of TV. 1970's not so much TV but did keep track of a few shows regularly.
1980's watched some TV with the family, particularly The Phoenix, Columbo, and Quincy.
Gave up on TV during the 90's."

Chani B. wrote, "Haven't had a TV in a year and a half and I am very glad about that! I'd be happy to share what life is like on the other side."

Once the discussion got going I thought I'd ask a few more probing questions, to go beyond the statistics. I will share some of the responses on Thursday. Here's the set of questions.

Did your family watch TV as a daily custom when you were growing up?
When you finally quit the habit, what were the trigger events?
Do you ever feel strange because the culture is so television focused?
In what ways are you different (from earlier in your life) because you do not watch TV?

I can already see that follow ups would have been good. Like, a good follow up to question 1 might be, "How did this make you feel?" The third question is a little weak because it ought to have been asked in a more open ended manner.

When I was in college I had something of a vendetta against television. Near four decades later and I find I am able to write about it with a bit more dispassionate indifference. That is, it's not such a burning issue any more for me. I write about it here because I've been asked so many times, "How do you find time to do so much writing and painting?" I guess the first thing that comes to mind is that we don't have a TV.

Tomorrow is Wordless Wednesday, so I will probably continue this the day after.

Meantime, enjoy the one you are living today and make the most of it.

1 comment:

Adee said...

i'm addicted to TV. while growing up, i've often watched TV 13 hours a day!!! now i consider those hours as the most wasted time of my life :)

now i try to balance time between writing and TV watching. but for some days when i feel i haven't written at all and get increasingly frustrated, i completely switch off the TV and do not watch it for few days on a stretch.

that definitely helps me write and after a few days, i come back happily to wasting time again :)