Strengthening the Soul (11)

Perhaps you’ve heard people say:


“We don’t watch that much television.”

Well, maybe.

The truth is that many of us watch far more television than we realize.

In some homes, the television is always on. Literally! The first person who gets up in the morning turns on the television and it may stay on until everyone leaves for work. When they come home in the afternoon, they turn the television on again and it stays on until bedtime.

Really? Do we really want to live this way? Have we thought about this?

Hour after hour the television blares. In some families, they do not have real conversation at dinner because the television is on. Who can have a real conversation when the other person is keeping one eye on the television? What are we shaping and forming in our homes when no one has the other’s undivided attention? What does this say to our children when we seem more interested in a television program than experiencing real conversation with people?

Note these realities from the Center for Screen-Time Awareness :

How many people are in the average American household?            2.55

How many televisions do they have?                                                   2.73

We are a society of more televisions than people!

50% of American homes have at least 3 televisions or more
19% of homes have only 1.

In 1975 only 11% of US households had more than 3 TVs…and 57% only had 1!

The average American home has the television on for well over 8 hours every day. That is an hour more than just a decade ago.

The average American watches 4 hours and 35 minutes of television each day.

Young people 12-17 years of age increased their television viewing by 3% just this year…a pretty big increase in just 12 months.

Teenage girls have dramatically increased their television viewing late at night and early in the morning…maybe they just don’t sleep anymore?

All the above statistics are from Nielson 2006

1. For one week, make a note of how long the television is on each day. You may be surprised to know how much television you really are watching.

2. If you are in the habit of leaving the television on each evening, consider having an hour in which you turn it off and your family does something enjoyable for the evening.

3. Consider turning the television on for specific programs instead of just leaving it on throughout the day or evening.

4. Any other suggestions?

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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7 thoughts on “Strengthening the Soul (11)

  1. My friends and I fast from using any electronic entertainment during Lent. I don’t watch much TV, but Lent opens my eyes to how much it has a hold of me- especially when I am tired at the end of a long day. Lent is long enough to help me establish new habits. And the fact that my husband and community are doing it with me strengthens my resolve.

    • Heidi, I like what you are doing during Lent. In particular, I like the important point that you make regarding this being a good opportunity to establish new habits. Very good. Thanks.

  2. We cut our tv watching time considerably when we cancelled pay (cable) tv. Now we only have free to air and watch maybe 2-3 hours a week. We also made the decision not to watch the news (primarily because we didn’t want our (then) young daughter exposed to what is on the news. Now she is almost 16 and we still don’t watch the news. Or miss the negativity.

    • Wendy, I appreciate the intentionality with which you have approached this. While others might make different choices regarding what to watch or how much to watch, I think we need to at least think through what we are doing.

  3. Guilty as charged. When I wake up in the morning I watch/listen to the Today Show while I’m getting ready for work. When I come home at lunchtime, I watch a show and then when I walk in the door after work, I turn it on and it stays on the rest of the evening. In fact, I use my sleep timer and fall asleep to it (a habit that ramped up after 9/11). I have become aware that oftentimes there’s nothing on that I’m really interested in and yet I will channel surf until I find something mildly interesting. What I need to do is use those times when there really isn’t anything of interest on and turn the t.v. off and use the time for reading, studying, cleaning, exercising or anything else that would be more productive. I might be surprised at what I can get accomplished.

    • Pat, I appreciate your honesty and what you voice here. So many, many people could describe the same kind of habit in their own lives. As I think through what this means in terms of our own spiritual formation, I think that what we are trying to avoid is mindlessness, where we continue with habits that we really aren’t thinking through.

      For many years, I had a similar habit with the car radio. I turned it on immediately when getting in my car and left it on as long as I was in the car. There was never a time for prayer, silence, or thinking about anything beyond what what was coming through the speakers. It took sometime to break this long time habit. But, it has been well worth it.