Although we don’t have cable in our house, we do have Netflix. At first, it was a great way to distract the kids and let me have some peace and quiet. I justified the mind-numbing activity with reasons like, “well, someone’s gotta clean the house and I can’t do it with them bugging me!” and “how else am I suppose to finish dinner?”.
But after a few months of this, Tim and I realized that the only topics of conversation coming out of the boys had to do with Johnny Test giving his friend a cytonic wedgie (which I still have no idea what that even means?!) and Patrick and Sponge Bob going door-to-door selling chocolate bars so they could make enough money to experience “fancy living” (okay, I’ll admit that episode was hilarious… “CHOOOOOOOCLAAAAAATE!!!”).
But hilarity aside, at what point do you stop and say, my six-year-old needs to have conversations that are more stimulating than just cartoon sitcoms. We knew the TV had to go.
Although we still have Netflix around, the boys get to watch 2-4 shows a week, instead of 2-4 shows a day. And within days, we saw a huge change in their demeanor, general attitude, and far fewer smart-alec comments that they had picked up from shows. Although they complained about being bored at first, kids are creative. If they know you won’t budge on the matter, they’ll quickly lose the motivation to complain and go find something to do. And chances are, it will be something that actually enriches their life. We were thrilled to see that once the boys figured out Mom wasn’t joking about this no-TV thing, they began sitting at their desks drawing, building Lego and playing make-believe. And wouldn’t you know it, the house still got cleaned and dinner still found it’s way to the table.
Needless to say, I wasn’t surprised to discover that TV time increases the chance of children developing depression. Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh and Harvard Medical School looked at the media habits of 4,142 healthy adolescents and calculated that each additional hour of TV watched per day boosted the odds of becoming depressed by 8%.¹
But what about adults?
A few years ago, I was all caught up in the Bachelor. I watched every episode and was totally engrossed in these people’s lives. I had emotional attachments to them!
And now I don’t even know their names.
So how important really was it — to reschedule my real life and make sure I never missed an episode of watching someone else’s real life when just a few months later, I couldn’t remember a thing about the entire season!
How much did I gain from that?
I can already hear someone arguing with me that getting together to watch their favorite show is a weekly girls’ night and important in building and maintaining their friendships. To which I will slap you silly and say, “seriously?! Sitting on your butt watching smut-tv and filling your face with junk food is the best way you can think to build friendships?!” How about getting together to go for a walk and then sitting down to have tea and a real conversation afterward?! Now that is how you build relationships (and a healthier physique!). And if your girlfriends aren’t up for that kind of thing then I suggest you start making some new friends. You are the company you keep, after all…
What other “good reasons” to watch TV do we often come up with?
I deserve to sit and chill after a hard day.
In their study using the Experience Sampling Method, researchers Robert Kubey, a professor at Rutgers University and director of the Center for Media Studies, and Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, Professor of Psychology at Claremont Graduate University discovered that watching TV left people in a slightly depressed state. “As one might expect, people who were watching TV…reported feeling relaxed and passive. What is more surprising is that the sense of relaxation ends when the set is turned off, but the feelings of passivity and lowered alertness continue.” ²
So if you’ve had a hard day at work, zoning out to the latest episode of The Real Housewives is actually one of the worst things you could do. You’ll come away with the same foul mood you started, or even worse! In fact, that same study showed that when people engaged themselves in a book or other enjoyable activity, their mood was elevated. “After playing sports or engaging in hobbies, people report improvements in mood.”
I watch a few TV shows each week. At least I don’t play video games!
Guess what? The majority of people that spend hours on end playing video games are unhealthy, overweight, and have relationships that are coming apart at the seams. So let’s not compare apples with moldy oranges. If you compare yourself to someone worse off than you, you’ll always come out ahead and have little motivation to improve yourself. Instead, think about all the productive free time a non-TV watcher has to do things that enrich their lives and make them better, stronger people.
My point is, if you stop vegging out in front of the TV as an escape from the real world, you’ll start to hear that real world calling to you. You’ll have new-found time to take on activities that strengthen your relationships with your children, your spouse, your friends and you might even get through that pile of laundry for once. Or for those of you hiding away in your La-Z-Boy, you might actually make friends.
I don’t buy the “I’m too tired to do those types of things. The TV is my way of recuperating from a long day” excuse. Nonsense. Turn your TV off for 2 weeks and you come back here and tell me that your life was worse because of it. I DARE YOU.