Monday, September 26, 2011

Take Back Your Life!

Before you are tempted to buy that new high-definition plasma television, before you sign up for a 500-channel satellite dish, before you allow a TV set in your child's bedroom, consider this:

Your television viewing may be slowly killing you.

On average, American adults now watch more than four hours of television per day. That's four hours wasted every day, four hours squandered on gaping into the vapid, make-believe world of the little screen. That's four hours not spent talking with loved ones, helping kids with homework, volunteering in one's community or doing any of the wonderful things that bring meaning to life. That's one-sixth of your time on earth. Can it be any surprise then that more than half of American adults are now overweight, and nearly one-third are clinically obese? Television viewing is the number-one cause of physical inactivity, and physical inactivity is now the number-two preventable cause of death, behind smoking.

The time that we are parked in front of our television screens is time lost for playing outside, for taking a walk or for engaging in a new sport. It's time spent in an unnatural state of physical deprivation, a sedentary state that over time puts us at greater risk of heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure and arthritis. But the hours we spend sitting still in front of our televisions are only part of the problem. The advertisements we watch on TV overwhelmingly push an unhealthy diet rich in fat, sugar and salt. Sugary breakfast cereals, fast-food meals, candy, soda, beer and other processed foods account for nearly all the food advertisements served up on television. How can a public health message like eating five or more fruits and vegetables a day compete with the billion-dollar marketing of junk food on the tube? It can't, and research shows that the more television people watch, the less healthy are their diets.

The detrimental impact of television on children is even more distressing. The percentage of overweight children in the United States alone has more than doubled in the last generation, and obesity among young people is highly correlated with the hours of television they have watched. On average, kids today spend more time watching television than they spend attending school. When they stare for hours at television screens, children aren't running, jumping or playing in ways that are essential for the formation of healthy bones and muscles. They aren't exercising their imaginations, creating their own games, and interacting with their peers. They aren't developing the most crucial skill needed in today's information-based economy: reading.

Instead, our children are numbed by television into a state that experts call "attentional inertia," a TV-induced stupor marked by lowered brain activity, passivity and dulled emotional responses. In this deprived sleep state they are exposed to more than 14,000 sexual references on television in a year's time, and they witness more than 200,000 acts of violence by age 18, including 16,000 murders. They are subjected to more than 20,000 television ads each year, including advertising that is inherently deceptive for young children who unknowingly accept marketing claims as truth.

The time has come to recognize the harmful effects of our television habit and take action. Beginning today, each of us needs to get up from the couch, turn off the TV, and get involved in more creative, active and social pursuits. An obvious time to start a TV-free lifestyle is at the dinner hour. Today about 40 percent of families say they regularly watch television while eating dinner. Turn off the television when you eat tonight, enjoy some good food and get to know the people you live with again.

Despite what the TV networks and cable stations want us to believe, we aren't missing anything of value if we choose to live with little or no television. Stronger and healthier bodies, more powerful minds and more cohesive families: we have all this to gain, and more, when we take back our lives from our TV sets.

Take the TV Free Challenge for one week!

1 comment:

  1. Dave this is a marvelous idea, but seeing that I hardly ever watch TV I have declined your invitation. Now, if it was stay off the computer for a week, that would be a different story - that is what keeps me glued to my chair; sigh! But, if it wasn't for that, I would never know about your event. Oh technology, you will be the downfall of mankind or this womankind.