Is TV viewing causing us real harm? It seems so…

by Lynn Connolly

TV - friend or foe?

Many of you, like me, may think that your TV is just an innocuous box that sits in a corner and provides entertainment when there’s nothing else to do, but recent studies are surfacing which claim that TV watching can cause real physical and psychological harm.

Many of us think that we don’t watch that much telly but the fact is, according to research from Nielsen Media Research Inc., many of us spend an average of about 4 hours and 45 minutes in front of our goggle boxes every day.

Moreover, the research revealed that the average household has at least one TV on for 8 hours and 18 minutes every day!

So per month, our telly watching – or just having the telly on in the background – can add up to a whopping 142½ hours.

Over the course of a year, the average household spends in excess of an equivalent of 72 days of solid TV watching so in the course of an average lifetime of say, 70 years, that’s over 13 years of it!

Some studies have claimed that TV viewers slip into an “hypnotic alpha brainwave state” when they’re watching TV which apparently causes the brain to “slow to a halt.” This – so these studies claim – is caused by the radiant light that’s produced by cathode ray technology within your television set.

And as to what we’re watching, the facts and figures are equally startling! TV watching has been widely linked to the obesity epidemic both in the UK and the US and many studies have implicated TV watching as being a causal factor in children diagnosed with ADHD. As if that wasn’t all bad enough, too much telly viewing can cause sleep deprivation and “stunted sensory development”… whatever that means!

Then there’s the debate about how television programmes desensitise us to violence, particularly with reference to children. On average, our children will witness 16,000 murders on telly before they’re 18 and will be exposed to a multitude of sexual content and sexual references on TV which, incidentally, have doubled in the past ten years.

According to yet another study published in the journal ‘Science’, teenagers who watch more than one hour of television a day are more likely to become violent or aggressive later in life when compared to those whose TV watching is less than one hour.

The link between aggression and exposure to TV shows was most prevalent for boys, but teenaged viewers of both genders were more likely to act aggressively toward others in their late teens and early twenties than those who’d watched very little television.

So maybe our seemingly harmless TV is far from it! Common sense of course tells us that little kids shouldn’t be watching programmes where sex and violence are featured, but the fact is, many do and even for those who aren’t permitted to, they may well find ways around it such as watching online or at friend’s house.

However, unless you’re truly dedicated, it’s unlikely you’re going to read this and suddenly launch your telly into the nearest skip, but it’s food for thought eh?

Lynn is an editor and writer here at Unreality TV and is trained psychotherapist and the author of two books. She's addicted to soaps, period drama and reality TV shows such as X Factor, I'm A Celeb and Big Brother.