Literally. Americans, on average spend 72 minutes every day watching ads on TV and more than five hours watching TV! Thatís five hours out of the total of 16 waking hours available for all other activity. Nearly a third of an average life consumed sitting in front of an LCD screen, passively receiving whatever content the TV producers want to shovel into the partly alert mind. The five hours of daily TV watching is the lionís share of the full 8.5 hours spent in front of a screen of any kind. For one needs to add to TV, cell phones, computers, personal digital assistants, and even GPS devices to take the full measure of the content we consume. (Not surprisingly, the computer has just recently surpassed radio as the second most important source of information and entertainment for most Americans, while print remains a distant fourth.)
The age group that spends most time in front of a computer screen is, perhaps surprisingly, the 35-44 peer group; this cohort spends 74 minutes surfing the web on a average day. But all these other media are either highly social or interactive, while television with rare exceptions, allows no input or activity on the part of the information consumer aside from switching channels. Little wonder that obesity is one of the most serious health problems in the US today and that our ďeducation systemĒ appears to be falling behind. Itís probably not the ďsystemĒ that is falling behind, more likely itís the hearts and more importantly, the minds, of a public that is investing so much precious time tethered to the tube.
This is not a criticism of the content of television programs. I donít watch enough television to be a fair judge of that. Nor is it an argument against television in general. As a form of entertainment and even education, television has its place. But when any activity consumes nearly one third of one's waking hours, it is not too harsh to suggest it may be approaching an addiction. Also, it stands to reason that a medium that demands absolutely nothing of its audiences will be less intellectually challenging that one that requires some skill, together with mental or even physical exertion. Cell phones, computers, personal digital assistants, even GPS devices imply a life! One has friends to talk to, documents to read, web sites to visit and interact with, calculations to complete, budgets to track, trips to plan and carry out. Television requires none of this. Frankly, I would rather have my children spending time with violent interactive games than with the totally passive form of entertainment that has become the American drug of choice. Even violence and pornography require interaction, however remote and degrading, with other human beings. Watching television requires nothing. And when nothing is invested, nothing is returned. A life is a terrible thing to waste!
Source: Ball State University, Center for Media Design