You may have heard that over the last few decades there have been approximately 3,000 studies conducted on the effects of TV watching on health.
What you probably didn’t hear was how many of those studies concluded that TV is bad for your health. That number is 2,888, according to Dr. John Nelson of the American Medical Association. Dr. Nelson, along with many other health professionals, endorses National TV-Turnoff Week.
Millions of Americans are so addicted to watching TV that the their behavior meets the criteria for substance abuse according to the official psychiatric manual, says Rutgers University psychologist and TV-Free America board member Robert Kubey.
What are the symptoms of TV addiction?
- The use of TV as a sedative
- Watching anything that comes on just to watch something
- Feeling like you’re not in control
- Getting angry with yourself for watching too much
- Lack of ability to stop watching
- Feeling irritable when you can’t watch
As with any addiction, there are negative effects. The worst one for adults is weight gain. If you watch three hours of TV a day, you are far more likely to be obese than if you who watch less than one hour, according to an American Journal of Public Health study.
Why does TV make you gain weight? It’s not necessarily that it makes you gain weigh as much as it prevents you from losing weight. Almost any activity burns more calories per hour than watching TV, except for sleeping.
And then there are the effects of fast-food and restaurant commercials showing luscious, tasty food…which drives you to the kitchen to grab a snack.
The effect that TV has on your children may be even worse. Children are more likely to be influenced by what they see on TV because their value and belief systems are not yet fully formed.
By the age of eighteen, the average child in America has seen 200,000 acts of violence on TV, including 40,000 murders. This acts to desensitize children to violence and murder.
There are many benefits to reducing the amount of time your family spends watching TV. Gerry Morton, CEO of EnergyFirst, has these suggestions for getting started:
- Turn off the TV and leave it off for one week.
- During that time, make a list of the shows you like best.
- List the shows in priority order.
- Make a TV schedule that allows for no more than one hour per day of TV.
- Do not eat in front of the TV
- Have TV-free meals in which family members talk and interact
Instead of TV, entertain yourself and your family by reading books and magazines and listening to the radio. Studies have shown that reading and radio listening stimulate the brain, because you are forced to use your creative powers to visualize situations…unlike TV, where everything is pictured for you.
One study, in particular, found that when people watch TV higher brain centers shut down, leading to a lack of critical thinking. In other words, when you watch TV you are more likely to accept what you are being told instead of questioning things.