I suppose the average person would think me a bit odd. Or even extreme, as a parent. You see, I don’t allow T.V. during the week. On weekends, we might, just might watch a DVD if the weather is lousy, or we’ve had an exhausting weekend not spent watching T.V. the rest of the time.
I also try to choose DVDs that are old enough that the frenzy of licensed products has abated enough to be able to get through a visit to the store without a hundred repetitions of “No, we don’t need that.” Or, “Sure, it’s a character you know. But the cereal is crap. We can get a coloring book instead.” It’s enough to make you hate television. It really is.
If you haven’t paid much attention to the marketing onslaught aimed at your kids, well, The Kaiser Family Foundation report, “Food for Thought: Television Food Advertising to Children in the United States,” has some pretty frightening statistics that might change your mind. The Small Screen with the Big Impact:
- Based on a national average viewing time of four hours per day for a child, over a year’s time he is exposed to nearly 30,000 commercials.
- That statistic is based on the maximum regulated amount of commercials that can be shown during an hour of programming. Not all networks adhere to this maximum. In 2004, children’s network Nickelodean violated this regulation 591 times. They were fined $1 million, far less than the amount netted from the additional commercials.
- Much of the television programming and commercials are aimed at younger children who are unable to differentiate the marketing messages from the program content. Given that most of these ads are fun, fast-paced and use licensed or branded characters, the similarity between the two makes this differentiation even harder to distinguish.
- Nearly one-third of children under the age of six have a television in their bedroom.
- Two-thirds of children aged eight and older have a television in their bedrooms.
- Between the ages of two and four, on average, children view approximately two hours of television per day. This increases throughout childhood and peaks at adolescence. Tweens and teens begin to replace television use with internet use, or will multi-task, watching television while online.
- Sixty percent of all the meals families eat together (and those are not many) are eaten with the television on.
- Of all the commercials that children are exposed to, nearly half are for food items such as sweetened cereals, candy, soda, and fast food. Which means 15,000 messages per year, on average.
[This post was written by Beth Bader.]
We’re also a tv-free household. So I don’t think you’re odd. We’ve come to the same conclusions for many of the same reasons.
I would be curious to know what the energy cost is of having so many televisions on for such a long time each day (in addition to all of the issues you’ve identified). If I’m not mistaken, turning off the TV would have a much greater environmental impact than replacing all the bulbs in your house with the ‘super-efficient mini CFLs.’