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Overcoming TV Addiction
“We may think there is willpower involved, but more likely change is due to want power. Wanting the new addiction more than the old one. Wanting the new me, in preference to the person I am now” (thinkexist, 2006). This quote by George Seehan tells us that in order to overcome an addiction we must want to change ourselves first. It is hard for many people to admit that they have an addiction and need help. Overcoming any addiction can be a difficult process, but if one puts their mind to it, anything is possible.
Defining addictions in general can be difficult. When we think of addiction we usually think of drug or alcohol addictions but there are many types of addictions. Nearly any craving or excess fixation can be categorized as an addiction. “Addiction is a term used to describe a recurring compulsion by an individual to engage is some specific activity, despite harmful consequences to the individual's health, mental state, or social life” (World Book Encyclopedia, 1966). Many types of addictions have been described such as alcohol, drugs, gambling, food, sex, computers, and work. Adding television to the list should not make a difference considering all the time a person spends watching one.
The viewing of TV is ok, but be careful to not overdo it. “Television Addiction becomes a problem when a subject does not want to watch TV, but experiences an uncontrollable compulsion to start or continue watching” (GNU free documentation, 2008). A person should be in control of the TV, not the other way around. “Television addicts are a relatively new breed, especially since television itself has only been around for about 50 years, nowhere near as long as alcohol, tobacco, and drugs” (Russell, 2008). Even though this may be, television addiction is a big obsession and most people do not even know they are addicted. When a person takes a look at them self and sees how much time and amount of frequency, that they spend on one individual item compared to all activities in a day that is the main focus when figuring out when some type of activity or hobby has become an addiction. It is hard for people to convince themselves that they have a problem and that they should seek guidance. The first and hardest step in recovering from an addiction is recognizing that one needs help.
With the generation that we live in now, it is especially easy to become a TV addict. The new invention of the TiVo, that became public in 1999, is a major contributor to “couch potatoes”. The TiVo stores television programs onto non-removable hard-disks. It also allows the viewer to pause live television, rewind and also replay up to a half hour of recently viewed television. Along with TiVo, where one can record their favorite shows, one can also watch their favorite programs online. On the internet one can find all the local listings to their favorite shows and even watch the re-runs if they may have missed an episode. According to data from the Convergence Consulting Group (1999), nearly a tenth of all broadcast and cable TV shows were viewed online. Convergence (1999) also estimates that 9% of all full-episode TV viewing was done online.
Watching too much television can have negative effects. Reading, school work, playing, exercise, family interaction, and social growth are very important in a person's life and the time spent watching television takes away from those activities. By spending more time in front of the “tube”, the less time a person will have to spend with friends and loved ones. Too much TV can put a strain on many relationships. A TV addict will find themselves canceling regular get-togethers, just to watch their favorite show. Many will also schedule their lives around a certain TV program. The viewer may not accomplish tasks or goals that he or she feels are important. With some people, a lack of motivation, feelings of depression, and anger comes with the factors of making it a habit of watching television over long periods of time. Many viewers rely on the television because of its' comforting effects. Trying to go for an extended amount of time without watching can lead to withdrawal symptoms as a person tries to cope with not having the security of the television. Another negative effect is that excessive TV watching inhibits physical activity causing obesity in the Unites States. With the large amount of TV that people watch, there leaves minimal time to do other activities such as work out and stay fit.
Too much television does have its' negative effects, but if the right TV shows are watched some benefits may appear. TV can be a great educational tool. According to the National Institute on Media and Family (1996), several studies have indicated that quality programming can be educational for young children. A 2001 study shows that “children who watch carefully constructed educational programs that are aimed at their age level do better on pre-reading skills than children who watch occasionally or not at all” (Walsh, 2001). Along with being an educational tool, TV can also bring the family together. Taking time out of the day to spend time with the whole family will help them grow stronger together.
It is easy for children to fall into the category of being a TV addict because their parents do not limit how much they can watch. Children have become lazier than in the past and instead of spending time outdoors with friends playing and exercising, children would rather opt to watch TV shows. According to a recent study done by the Yale Family Television Research and Consultation Center, over the course of the year, children spend more time watching TV than they spend in school or participating in any other activity except sleep (Sather, 2007). Children would be at an advantage if they flipped those roles and watched less television and did more school work and other beneficial activities. Children would rather choose entertainment shows over educational, but in reality children who watch educational shows will do better in their school work. For parents, TV is a simple way to get their kids out of their hair. It is less stressful for parents to have the television entertain their kids rather than for them to have to all day.
TV violence triggers many bad behaviors among young children. Not monitoring what kids watch can bring out these bad behaviors. According to a study backed by the cable television industry (2000) “fifty-seven percent of television programs contain ‘psychologically harmful' violence. TV violence influences children to act in ways they usually would not. Viewing large amounts of TV violence does not necessary cause a child to act more violently, but it can contribute to promoting a view that violence is routine in everyday life” (Peele, 2007). TV violence not only affects the minds of children, but it encourages them to think that violent behavior is ok.
To overcome any addiction, one must first realize that they have a problem. Correcting an addiction can take a matter or weeks, months, or years. “Overcoming addictions depends on your ability to persevere through difficulties and mistakes, your faith in yourself, your faith in the process, and how much you're willing to put into the process” (Television Addiction, 2008). If a person does not make an effort then there will be no results. Much like any addiction, it is important to have support from family and friends. The saying, “slow and steady wins the race” is a way of looking at overcoming TV addiction. Start slow by limiting your hours of TV watched. Continue to move forward by taking small steps to achieve your goal.
The recovery process differs from person to person depending on how drastically one is addicted to the television. Overcoming addiction is going to be as difficult as one thinks it is going to be. If a person has the mindset that things are going to be hard then chances are they will be. With more extreme TV watchers, it may be best to get rid of the television set in general. For less severe watchers, it may be as easy as making a TV watching plan for each week. Monitoring how many hours of TV is watched per day is a great step towards minimizing the amount of TV being watched. Other tips to overcome a TV addiction include, only watching when a certain show is on, setting a timer to limit oneself to how long they watch, or throwing out the remote control (Sri, 2008). It is amazing how much less television will be watched when one has to get up every time they want to change the channel. If a timer is used, it is best to place it in another room so the viewer is forced to get up and turn it off. This means that they leave the room where the TV set is, making it a less likely that the viewer will return to watch more television. It is also important to not eat and watch TV at the same time. Doing both can lead to overeating and eventually obesity.
Television viewing for those who are more susceptible to addiction is more like drinking or taking drugs, once you start it is hard to stop. Being aware of the negative effects of too much television will help one not become an addict. Limiting the television intake can increase family time and decrease violence within viewers. Once one decides to turn off the “tube”, the hours that were dedicated to watching TV can now be used for more productive activities throughout the day. By making the step to give up TV, one will be on their way to living a healthier and more fulfilled life.