Television is considered to be one of the most controversial and debating subjects in contemporary culture, therefore not surprisingly there is a lot of moaning about what is on TV - TV Habits introduction. Complaints have been steady throughout television’s half century of existence. From time to time their character and tone changes but the core idea remains unaltered. We are told that we are watching the wrong programs and too many of them. “Boob tube” and “couch potato” are common terms that nobody questions. Television, however, hardly has an exclusive hold on intellectual shallowness, dishonesty, and exaggeration in our culture. Owners of $ 2,500 TV sets routinely call them idiot boxes, with little sense of self contradiction. A year ago I knew a high school student who had a bumper sticker on his car that read: “Kill Your Television.” On several occasions, however, I overheard him talking with other students about what he had seen the night before on The David Letterman Show. People consistently deny that they watch as much television as they actually do. The stigma attached to saying that you like television is strong. Practically, people’s interest and TV viewing habits to the very degree are shaped by personal interests in their lives, occupations, income and even gender.
For instance, many people, including myself, watch more news coverage. CNN, Fox News, BBC World and many other news programs work for these people fairly well as long as they keep live newscasting and constant news updates. I prefer news, because news is storytelling, and TV news is story-telling with sharp and terse commentary, bountiful pictures, and a compelling sense of immediacy. Some people stay tuned in news all day. Others switched to videotapes or turned off the television all together. Television can be a nice diversion – or it can interfere with everyday life. Society needs to be informed and it has to be informed. From the personal viewpoint, as responsible citizens, it is incumbent upon us to know what is going on, not only in American community and country, but also in the world. However, for particular audience as well as in particular situations, television can be hypnotic. For instance, I remember how my parents, their colleagues, friends and our neighbors were mesmerized by television during the week following the attacks of September 2001. They did not accomplish much in terms of their social and professional lives. And I knew several people who said their lives came to a standstill. At the same time, many families restricted their children’s television viewing in favor of rented movies and educational videos.
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Other groups of people, including my parents, simply do not go places on Monday nights, because they want to watch the CBS sitcoms and others always stat home on Tuesday night to see “Judging Amy.” Friends of mine, whose parents do not work outside the home often tell me their parents even let television rule their lives during the day: if friends invite them to lunch, they do not go, because they miss “The Bold and the Beautiful.” They are letting television structure their lives, but in a sense they are also structuring the lives of others.
When television was first introduced in the United States and shortly thereafter became a necessary home appliance, it had a prominent status that dictated its location in the household. It took up residence in the 1950s in the home’s “best” space, the living room, and then moved into its own domain, the family room, in the late 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s (Albiniak, & McConnell, 1999). Consequently, greater living space, along with a move to three-and four-car garages, facilitated increased accumulation of objects and toys geared to the penchants and pastimes of individuals rather than the recreational interests of the entire family. Media rooms were included in newer homes or added to older structures where spaces were made to accommodate “media centers.” The well-outfitted media center since 1999 represented a major family expense. It provided an entertainment focus, however, that would be hard for family members to resist. Image and sound quality available at a technologically sophisticated home media center might once again draw family members together.
However, from the critical perspective, the diversity of available programs, TV channels, and ultimately programs’ content are now the strongest variable affecting where family members might view television, at least in our family. Among our family members, the consumption of all media is a solitary enterprise; we do not gather to share an evening with Osbornes or the Waltons or Huxtables. Similarly to the majority of American families, in our family teenagers watch about 11 hours of television each week, and their program selections are not likely to coincide with parents’ choices. So today, when teenagers watch their favorite programs, The Simpsons, Osbornes or MTV and teen girls consume their most preferred fare, Dawson’s Creek (Kantrowitz & Wingert, 1999:39), they probably are not watching television with parents at their sides. This cultural segregation does little to promote family cohesiveness and mutual understanding. Co-director of the Institute on Violence and Destructive Behavior in Oregon, Hill Walker, observed that children now live in “almost a virtual reality without adults” (Leland, 1999:45). And much of that virtual reality is unfamiliar to parents. As one teenager noted, “TVs raise children now more than parents do …” (Leland, 46). Parents who neither know their children nor the media they consume have little opportunity to recognize symptoms of trouble, to prevent viewing of inappropriate programs for instance those depicting violence, or to intervene in antisocial or destructive responses to media exposure.
During the century-old history of television, there had been a trend when TV became a center of family life and method of keeping happy family members together. However, this trend is unlike to happen again, because contemporary television is perceived as something individualistic, an expression of own style and character. Now modern families have to find other strategies not connected to television or home entertaining centers to keep family ties.
Albiniak, P., & McConnell, B. (1999). Washington watch: TV teaches consequences. Broadcasting & Cable, 129 (29)
Kantrowitz, B., & Wingert, P. (1999). “How well do you know your kid?” Newsweek, May 10, pp. 36– 40.
Leland, J. (1999). “The secret life of teens.” Newsweek, May 10, pp. 45–50.