According to a 2012 report by Nielsen, the average amount of time that Americans spend watching television is 34 hours per week, plus an additional 3 to 6 hours watching taped shows. That’s equivalent to a full-time job, and does not include other kinds of digital media. Break it down, and you’ve got children aged 2-11 watching 3.5 hours per day; teenagers watching just over 3 hours; and people over 65 watching nearly 7 hours per day.
That’s a whole lot of time wasted in front of the television. Watching multiple hours of TV each day is enough to make anyone feel unsatisfied, lethargic, passive, and disconnected from the rest of the world. If you want to kick the habit and start getting more out of life, start by acknowledging you have a problem, then commit to change. Here are some ideas for how to start curbing your TV addiction.
1. You only need one TV in the house. Get rid of the extras and designate a single room as the TV room, where you have to go in order to watch anything.
2. Rearrange the furniture in the room where your TV is located. Rather than allowing your TV to be the focal point, focus the furniture on something else, such as a fireplace, bookshelves, or window. Make it slightly difficult to watch TV, requiring an awkward twist of the head or shifted furniture.
3. Turn on the TV only to watch specific shows. If you sit down in boredom and start switching channels in order to find something interesting to watch, you’ll waste a ton of time in the process. And, by all means, keep the TV off while eating meals with your family.
4. Set personal goals that must be accomplished. For example, you could insist on reading a book for 30 minutes before turning on the TV. Go for a walk around the block or go to the gym for a workout. Keep TV as a reward for other work, rather than a default.
5. Limit the number of minutes or hours you watch daily. Set a timer as soon as you sit down and get up off the couch as soon as it beeps.
6. Throw away the remote control. It’s very frustrating to have to get up and walk over to the TV every time you want to switch channels or adjust the volume. Watching TV will lose some of its appealing ease this way.
7. Develop other interests. When you have other things to do, you’ll be less inclined to waste time watching TV. Join a sports team, a knitting group, a cooking class, or a yoga class. Learn how to meditate, how to play bingo or bridge, how to quilt. Sign up for those music lessons you always wanted to take, start a book club, or volunteer in the community. There are countless possibilities.
8. Make a rule that you can’t watch TV when the sun is shining. This is especially important for kids, who need to learn how to entertain themselves without relying on TV.
9. Remember that kids aren't supposed to have much, if any, screen time. The American Academy of Pediatrics says that today's children spend a total of 7 hours a day using and watching all forms of digital media, which is unacceptable. Babies, until the age of two, should have no access whatsoever to screens. Children aged 2-12 should be limited to a maximum of 2 hours daily.
Now, for some more radical ideas…
10. Get rid of your cable or satellite subscription. Keep a DVD player for watching movies, and leave it that.
11. Store your TV in an out-of-the-way spot, such as a closet or basement, and bring it out only when you want to watch a movie.
12. Get rid of your TV. There’s a reason they call it the “idiot box." Go cold turkey and simply refuse to let it be a part of your life anymore. If you have a computer and Internet connection, there’s really no need for TV anymore, although you have to be careful not to become addicted to the Internet, either.
As you wean yourself off TV and develop other interests, you’ll be amazed at how great it feels. Eventually you’ll wonder where you ever found the time to watch TV, and why it used to matter so much.