Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Average Family?

As I drove home from dropping Nolan off at the Nutcracker, I heard that a new Neilson study shows that the "average American family" watches 8 hours and some minutes a day of television.

Really? That seems like a lot of time. I suppose some of it would be joint viewing, building family and such....but wow...8 hours a DAY? Do you all think this is an inflated number?

Growing up we didn't have television on the mission station, in the barrio, or at the dorms at Faith Academy (high school). I didn't have television during college either. I thought back to our furlough years and I'd say we'd watch 30 - 60 minutes of cartoons in the a.m. as we ate breakfast....and probably 3 - 4 hours in the evening.....still not close to 8 hours.

Years ago we turned cable off in our family. We did this as the values coming into our home were not values to which we wanted to daily expose our young children. We switched to a VCR player and videos. When we moved here we put that TV/VCR into storage (and have since given it away). We had discovered that we were spending too much time watching "good" things on television. We now have a projector and screen. We do watch movies, Waltons, an occasional Presidential debate or sports game....but it involves setting up a screen, hooking up the projector etc. We made it a TREAT rather than daily fare. We have also learned to limit "screen time" - in the sense of Play Station and computer time. Why?

Not because we desire to be out of touch with our culture. I believe THAT is a straw tiger. We have been told by other pastors that if you don't watch current sit coms, R rated movies etc you will be out of touch and unable to communicate the gospel to this generation/culture. I don't buy it. It seems impossible to me to escape the culture and its values...Internet, radio, newspapers, movies....Surely I can teach/share the gospel and family values without watching nightly trash.

We didn't set out to be peculiar. We simply knew that Mike and I needed to be more intentional in relating with our children during family time. Television (and movies VCR) made it too easy for us to sit in the same room but never RELATE. We never seem to have enough time to discuss all that is waiting to be discussed, to play all the games that are waiting, to explore all the adventures in each new location.....and we rarely miss the television these days.

Today I'm wondering if the "average" family is really spending EIGHT hours a day, EVERY day watching television. Even if you watch only oldies and "good" things.....it still seems like a lot of valuable time that could be spent building relationships as parents/children/spouses.....

So - what do you think? Is 8 hours a realistic number? How much do you think your family watches a day? Is that an amount of time that you are comfortable with? I'd say we watch about 1 - 3 hours a week - max. This would be the Family Movie Night (Tim Hawkins is a favorite) and does not happen every week. Yep, 1 -3 hours weekly, MAX. That works for us. There are times I'd like to watch more....there are weekends when I think we should never have pulled out the screen, but for the most part it seems to work.

©2008 D.R.G.


berrypatch said...

We watch way more we should but not eight hours a day. I would say the kids watch 3-4 hours a day tops & hubby & I watch maybe 1-2 hours at night after the kids are in bed. Even on the weekends. I'm working to cut that number even further.

Michelle said...

We disconnected from cable more than 4 years ago. I wished we'd done it sooner. Like you, we didn't care for the values on t.v. (and especially commercials) our children were being exposed to on a regular basis.

We do watch dvds as a family: Little House is a big favorite as are The Waltons.

The littles watch between 30 minutes -90 minutes a day at most.

Paula said...

We didn't have a TV growing up--my mom said she didn't want to police it. We don't have one now, although we do sometimes watch DVD's on the computer. Having grown up without it I really don't miss it and neither do my kids. I'm guessing the 8 hours comes from homes where the TV is just always on, but maybe in the background--people aren't necesarrily watching that much. At least I would hope not...

Anonymous said...


HA! I no longer watch even 1 hour of TV because I never get a chance to sit down to watch until after school.......AND bet you can't guess what happens....that's right......I fall to sleep. It is only once in awhile that i manage to stay awake in front of a TV.

Dad watched even more than 8 hrs a day when he was laid up in that rest home for so many months. But now he doesn't watch all that much.

Seems to me it would be hard to be a normal, non sick person and end up spending 8 hrs of really watching TV. Maybe like the one person above said.... the TV is on in the background more than it is watched by many people.

As for Dad/I enough is enough and the hrs we watch are fewer and always news or the old ones like Waltons etc.

Except for Dad and his favorite sport which I hate. :):) l/p Mom T

Stephanie said...

That seems like a very high number, but then again maybe it's realistic in some homes. I know a lot in our neighborhood that might watch close to this. What on earth could kids in public school have time to do if they are watching 8 hours a day? We have been talking about disconnecting cable for the better part of a year. We almost did, but with dh working at home we found out that we'd spend MORE on internet if we disconnected cable than keeping the package that we were on. Made no sense! We tend to watch library videos tied into whatever we're studying as my kid is very visual. We also love the good old series (My Favorite Martian is a big hit around here lately) so we usually have something from Netflix for the evenings or weekends. All in all, not counting a video for lessons, we probably watch 1 to 2 hours a night with all of us combined (but not most of us continual.) Some rare nights it's 3 hours if we watch a movie that the kid can't watch after she heads to bed.

Anonymous said...

T.V.! That's a soap-box issue for me...I'll seek to be brief. Our children are permitted 1-1.5 hours after school. (I use the time for prepping/cooking dinner, etc.) Only our middle son craves it. The others don't care about it; they prefer computer time/playing. We have too many activities for more and I'm glad of that. I'd cancel cable if I could.
I do have a relation that can't go to sleep w/out t.v. on and usually sleeps w/it on all night. So, while not watching, it is on for ~8 hours a night and anytime they're in the room w/it.

De'Etta ~ Central's IIC said...

When Mike worked nights I used to watch a lot of TV.....after the kids were in bed I'd watch about 4 - 5 hours a night....but I can't imagine the average family watching over 8 hours a day -

It must be that it's ON as background noise....that could be it....

Herding Grasshoppers said...

Hi D'Etta,

We haven't had cable for about 13 years, and got rid of the TV completely in 2007. Like others, we occasionally watch a DVD on the computer - or will watch things at friends and relatives' houses.

I agree with you... there is NO PROBLEM being "aware" of the culture. We are bombarded with it! And, frankly, the things my kids ARE unaware of, I'm thankful for :0)

That 8-hour a day average is a tragedy. Especially when you count in the many of us that aren't watching ANY, and what that implies, mathematically.

The Nielson numbers are accurate, in that they measure exactly how long each TV is turned on, and what is being watched. That number does NOT include DVD/Video, that only counts how much "TV" is being watched. So the "8 hours a day" is probably, actually a bit on the low side.

Even without the TV we have to ration "screen time" - computer use is included. Like you, I find that too much of a "good" thing, squeezes out the "best" things.

Yes, there are times I miss all of us piling onto the couch and watching family movies together, but we have opportunity for that often enough :0) I am inspired by Phil. 1:9-11... to discern, not just what is good, but what is best.

Happy Thanksgiving :0)


De'Etta ~ Central's IIC said...

Stephanie - we are looking at new INternet packages too and finding the same thing - which is a crack up that we may have cable but no tv. LOL

De'Etta ~ Central's IIC said...

Lisa - I am thinking this through and STACIA and ZANDER do watch movies when we are trying to do one on one school....I really need to do the pre-school rotation thing. I do think that Stacia probably watches more "tv" than the rest of us. Her current is Peter Pan - or Jane - over and over.

Julie Zesch said...

We got our cable disconected about 5-8 years ago. We usually just watch movies, like the Waltons, Andy Griffeth, ect. I'd say 2-4 hours a week.

Renee said...

We certainly don't watch 8 hrs... that would mean the TV going on at 2pm and staying on until bedtime at 10pm.... just doesn't happen around here....
I would say 2-4 hrs a day (on average)depending on the weather, what's on, etc (and that includes video/dvd watching)

DeEtta @ Courageous Joy said...

Thanks, all for sharing honestly. I would never expect all families to do the same as ours....but am really taken aback by this study.

We've been moving to limiting all screen time more and more....so to hear 8 hours as "average" - wow.

Debbie said...

I just wonder as most "average" families don't seem to be home 8 hours a day.

The children usually watch one or two 1/2 hour programs a day, but sometimes not at all.

When Brian is away, I do watch 2-3 hours in the evening after the children are in bed, but if he is home, the TV is usually off. I could easily be a TV addict, so I am very careful about falling into too much TV time.

Herding Grasshoppers said...


There's an interesting book called "The Plug-In Drug", by Marie Winn. (Not new... been out for 20 years or more).

She deals some with content, but more - if I remember right - about the things passive viewing replaces, and the loss that is to children and families.

I don't remember it being written from a Christian point of view, necessarily, but it resonated with me.


Joyce said...

Hi, De'Etta,

There's a book you might enjoy reading called 'Your Child's Growing Mind' by Jane Healy. She talks about the neurological effects of TV watching (and other electronics, such as computer screens) on a child's developing brain.

Very interesting!

Cynthia said...

I don't even see how that could be possible.... That's a full work day (LOL). Well maybe not since most people no longer have an 8 hour work day anymore, but you know what I mean. If you work (or homeschool) and then take care of any household things there doesn't seem like there would mathematically even be enough time for 8 hours of TV viewing.

Kristine said...

I agree with Cynthia. How can the tv even be on 8 hours a day, between most "average" families working, going to school and sleeping?

We don't watch any network tv (American Idol being the exception), but we watch cable. I should clarify, dc and dh watch cable; I sit at the computer.