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Is Watching TV Good or Bad for You?

Cynthia is a digital marketer, writer, and artist. She writes about a variety of topics, especially digital marketing, languages & culture.

A couple weeks ago, I asked the question, "Does TV dull the mind?" I was surprised at all the answers I received as well as the number of people who don't think it dulls the mind. I thought for sure I'd get more "Of course" responses.

I wanted to delve into this topic because I often have this discussion with my significant other. We went for a year without TV at all (and just rented movies and documentaries). We had just moved into our new house in the country and we couldn't even get a landline to the house. We have no reception for any channels—at all—without cable or satellite. We just live too far out in the mountains where antenna signals don't reach.

Finally, we were able to get satellite TV after calling cable companies, and getting a very large, very unsightly antenna that did not work. For three years we had satellite. Then, after having many discussions with friends and family, we decided to go without satellite for six months and see if we could do without television (and go back to renting online DVDs). We had several reasons for doing so.

Save Money: No Satellite Bill

The first reason was to save money. We looked at our monthly bill and multiplied it by 12. What we pay for satellite entertainment alone is around $750 per year. That's a lot, especially given the fact that we don't watch TV that much.

The second reason was that we felt like we would have more time to do other things. In theory that was the case, but what often happened is that we would read and fall asleep earlier.

The third reason was to shut out some of the chaos from modern daily life. The house certainly got quiet. I love the quiet. Sometimes, though, the quiet was too quiet. I'd often hop online and put on some music to break up the silence. I'd listen for awhile and then turn everything off to enjoy the silence again.

The reception from radio stations wasn't always reliable. We felt that TV was really a tool to help us know what was going on locally and globally. Furthermore, like many people who answered in the questions, I like the Discovery Channel, Animal Planet, History, and The Learning Channel. I wanted my educational shows back. Furthermore, the only internet service that actually works where we live doesn't allow you to download entire movies, unless you want to pay mega-bucks.

One evening, my poor husband looked at me and said, "Next on TV folks, is the girl typing incessantly at her computer." He looked back down at his book and fell asleep within minutes.

I felt bad: I was hogging the computer and the only thing he could do was read books. Eek. Somewhat ironic, too.

It was an experiment of sorts. But in the end, though, we decided to get satellite back. Waiting for online DVDs to arrive in the mail sometimes left us sitting in silence and other times we would need to hear news reports of school closings due to weather and the like.

So, TV Has Its Positives?

Yes, we decided to go back to our satellite service after a six-month hiatus. We needed information that we couldn't get from the internet. Plus, while it's always nice to have music on in the background while making dinner, I admit an episode of Seinfeld on in the background is always a mood-lifter.

Furthermore, the local news does provide local weather forecasts, traffic reports and useful information about school closures. I headed out to school twice when we didn't have TV only to arrive and find it closed.

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Still, around 9 pm when you're too tired from working, making dinner, and cleaning up, you don't quite want to go to bed and you don't exactly want to delve elbow-deep into your hobby. It's nice to turn on the TV for 30 minutes to an hour. That's not too bad, is it?

Though we have satellite TV, we acknowledge some real reservations about television.

There are always the questions:

  • Does TV make you think less?
  • Does it contribute to ADHD?
  • Because there's so much violence, does TV contribute to societal violence?
  • Does it contribute to stress?

TV Definitely Has Some Negatives

I am no scientist, but if I were to go by my observations, here are some of the negative aspects about television:

Apparently, the average American adolescent watches 22 - 28 hours of TV weekly. If they continue those habits into adulthood, that amounts to 7-10 years they've spent watching TV by the time they reach age 70 according to Turn off Your TV. That is a serious amount of time sitting in front of the tube.

It can make you feel bad about yourself. You watch TV and in the programs, everyone has nice clothes, nice cars, nice jobs, nice houses, nice furniture, and even perfect food. Then you end up watching ads about the same stuff. You feel bad that you don't have it, so you work harder to buy more. Then you watch more TV and the cycle begins again. I'm here to tell you, I personally try my hardest to not participate in that cycle of thinking.

It's hypnotic. You stare and you forget about the world around you. It's almost like a drug because you can tune out the world and tune in to the program you're watching. That can be good if you do need to zone out, but every single day? Really?

I believe it contributes to ADHD. Like I said, I'm no scientist, but I grew up getting muddy and playing outside. My mother never let me watch too much TV. I read and traveled and studied. Now, I'm a teacher and I ask my students, "what do you do when you get home?" The answer is almost always "watch TV". A lot of these same students have ADHD and even tend to be heavy - because they're sitting and not getting the exercise they need (there are a lot of other things going on here that contribute, too, but that's beyond the scope of this hub). Maybe there's an absolute connection; maybe not. But, I can say that I'm pretty sure TV-watching and ADHD and even weight gain are related.

It's violent. I think it contributes to a culture of fear. You may recall every summer the news talks about shark attacks. Out of the millions of people who frequent hundreds of thousands of miles of coastlines around the world, you are going to have one or two people venture off and get some shark mad enough for them to attack. But, how many millions of people won't swim in the ocean because they fear a shark attack? How many people know that you have a greater chance of being struck by lightning than by getting attacked by a shark?

The violence rubs off in society in general. Don't take my word for it. Look at Vision of Humanity and see where the US ranks on the Peace Index. It's not good. I remember traveling to Spain a few years ago. Never once was I scared to walk the streets of downtown Madrid (population 5 million-ish) at two a.m. in the morning. Sure, there were pickpockets, but I wasn't ever scared that someone would come after me with a knife or any other weapon. But in the States, even in a small city, I would never do that.

Final Thoughts on the Pros and Cons of Television

If TV is used judiciously, it can be a great tool to finding out useful news and information. Inspiring movies and hearing about things like the peaceful revolution in Egypt to overturn their leader are great uses for TV programming.

However, when it's used to "fill in" time, entertain children for hour after hour, without any reflective thought, I believe it can be a dangerous tool that contributes to degradation of morals and an increase in violence among other things.

Furthermore, I know from my own experience that I simply cannot start my day with news. If the first thing I see when I get up are stories about robberies or homicides, I can tell you, I go about my day more stressed than if I start out with some meditation.

This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.

© 2012 Cynthia Calhoun

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