Hi, my name is Average American, and I’m a TV-aholic.
Nielsen just released a factsheet summarizing American TV usage for 2010 – and the most amazing thing for me was this: The average American watches 35.6 hours per week of TV – slightly over 5 hours per day.
That adds up to 1,856 hours a year.
That’s the equivalent of two and a half months of doing nothing but watching TV.
And if you decided to sleep for 6 hours a day (watching TV for the other 18), you’d have to stare at the TV screen for 103 days straight in order to clock your 1,856 hours.
If you’re reading these thoughts on a blog about time stewardship and productivity, I’d imagine that you’re not in the 5-hours-a-day-of-TV crowd. In fact, I bet you can’t even understand how someone could spend 5 hours a day watching TV.
It’s easy for us to shake our head and think of all the precious time that has been wasted in front of the tube.
But how much is too much TV?
One hour a day? Two hours a week?
Why Is TV a Bad Thing?
Why are we worried about how much time we spend watching TV? What’s so bad about television? Probably most of us would agree that five hours of TV per day is a waste of time – but why?
I actually think TV has the potential to be a good usage of our time.
I love to watch nature documentaries and just marvel at the incomprehensible wonders that God has created. Watching sports with my friends is a great opportunity to fellowship. My wife and I really enjoy watching movies together on date nights.
I think many well-meaning people have a knee-jerk reaction to television and think that nothing good can come of it. But why is television worse than listening to music? Why is it worse than leisure reading?
Quantity of Time Isn’t the Issue
The real issue in our TV consumption isn’t how much we watch. The two important factors are why we watch and how we watch.
If your purpose in watching television is to take a God-honoring rest, I don’t think that television is any worse than attending a concert or leisurely reading. Culturally, we may make the point that one or the other is preferable, but they’re the same from a theological perspective.
How we watch is also important. Is television taking away from community or is it a gathering point for true fellowship?
Addiction to Entertainment
I think the hidden problem with TV is not that it is worse than other forms of entertainment, but that it so easily lends itself to poor usage. It’s always there – and it is often a very passive and multisensory experience.
Our culture has become one that is easily bored. We’ve grown comfortable with the nature that we should always have engaging entertainment around us at all times.
It’s very easy, if we don’t guard ourselves, to plunk down in front of the TV as a way of release. We can seek entertainment as a kind of numbing drug to help us procrastinate from doing truly important things – or even worse to escape reality altogether.
Other Forms of Entertainment
So you don’t watch five hours of TV a day.
But what about video games? Leisure reading? Internet surfing? Listening to music?
Who says that entertainment is confined to sedentary activities?
You may still be a poor steward of your time if you are seeking entertainment even through “healthy” means such as walking, exercising, or socializing.
Who is the better steward of his time:
the man who takes a weekly date night, rents a movie, and cuddles with his wife while they watch…
or the man who reads a chapter in a theology book because he’s stalling from studying for an exam he has tomorrow?
Don’t have a knee-jerk reaction to the activity (whether that reaction is negative or positive), but look at the inner motivation. “For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.”
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