Get Your Life Back by Limiting Your TV Time
The average American watches more than four hours of TV each day, or over 28 hours of TV per week. Fully half of the total leisure time Americans had in 2007 was spent watching TV (including DVDs and movies). Children, too, average four hours a day watching TV, DVDs or videos. These addictions to TV interfere with virtually all aspects of normal childhood and adult behavior. But we can control it if we make a determined effort to get our lives back.
Collect Your TV Viewing Data
Your first step is to collect the data. Keep a diary of when TV is being watched, by whom and for how long. Keep the diary up for a couple of weeks to document the damage. If you have multiple TV’s in the house you’ll have to keep track of each one. If your children have TVs in their rooms you’ll need to count them, too.
Analyze the TV Viewing Behavior in Your Household
Once you have two or more weeks of data, analyze it by TV watcher and compute how many hours per day, on average, each person in the household watches TV. Now there are plenty of quality TV shows, including some very good educational ones, too. But these need to be budgeted and planned instead of the TV becoming the mindless addiction it so often is.
Plan Your Leisure Time Around Rational Priorities
Your goal is to take back your life so that you can rationally budget your time among competing priorities. For example, which of these goals should take a back seat to TV: Your health? the health of your children? Meaningful conversation with adults and with children? Saving money for the future? Reducing unnecessary expenditures? Exercise? Friendships? Parents? Love relationships? Homework? Chores around the house? Family time? Having meals together with conversations instead of TV? Reading? Writing?
Take Control by Planning Your Leisure Time
I’ve named 15 goals/activities that should easily take priority over watching TV. You may be able to come up with many others. These exercises are useful because they show how powerful examining our behavior and planning rational action on the basis of the findings can be. It is “rational behavior.” Socrates said the unexamined life wasn’t worth living. Aristotle went further and said the unplanned life wasn’t worth examining. They were a bit harsh but had a point. We need to take control and plan our time and our lives. Or we will be consumed by the lack of a plan as in letting TV take over the household.
Set Limits on TV Viewing
Potential actions that could be taken to regain control of our lives include setting up rules like the following:
- no TV for ANYBODY until their homework is finished and done correctly and neatly
- no TV for ANYBODY who has chores needing to be done
- no TV at all for children at night before school days
- have three or four days a week when the TVs remain unplugged and saving energy.
Personalize Your Plan and Implement It
Try to adapt these rules to your situation, or come up with rules of your own. But remember to be clear on what your goals are: to reallocate scarce leisure time to things that are far more important, and limiting the potential damage that TV can inflict on children and family life. Make a rational plan and then implement your plan.
Others in your household may resist the discipline of rationally limiting TV. You’ll have to keep explaining why the other uses of time are so much more important than watching TV. Don’t forget to internalize the family values and the caring about relationships and health that underlie the new direction.