This House Guest may be Stealing your Life. Take it Back!

shutterstock_173796380Years ago I invited a guest into my home who began to affect my most valued relationships almost from the beginning.  He was handsome, a novelty and a little old fashioned.  He was a square…  box that is.

Over the years his appearance changed from square to flat. He became noisier, more colorful, and grew in influence.  From morning until night he blathered about everything.

In the beginning his opinions and behavior were limited, but slowly he morphed from being educational and entertaining, to providing offerings that ranged from banal to disgustingly immoral.  He has stolen much of our lives. Here’s how you can get it back.

I think you know who my guest was.  But in case you missed it, review these statistics from Statistic Brain

  • The average American spends over 5 hrs watching television every day.
  • The average American youth will spend 900 hours in school.
  • The average American youth watches television – 1,200 hrs
  • Number of violent acts seen on TV by age 18 – 150,000
  • Number of 30 second TV commercials seen in a year by an average child – 16,000
  • The average amount time a person will have spent watching TV in a lifetime 9 years

Statistic Brain research also shows that almost 50 percent of Americans believe they watch too much TV.  Time that was once devoted to games, reading, and conversation is often spent staring at the TV.  Decisions about visiting with friends or going out to dinner are made in relation to what is on TV that night.

Here are a few suggestions that might help you reclaim your life.

1.  Recognize the overwhelmingly negative messages presented on television and make conscious choices about what you will watch.  From the negative influence of the news to the frequency of violent images, from sexually explicit programing to, perhaps most insidious, the subtle (and often blatant) messages that stand in direct opposition to the faith, moral values and character issues we are trying to teach our children and grandchildren.   Not all programming is bad, but we should be wise in choosing both what we watch and what we allow our children to watch.

2.  Put the television in a less prominent place in the home.  I once suggested moving it to the top floor of the house and then throwing it out the window.  Now I advocate controlling it rather than destroying it.

3.  Have specific times for watching television.  Record the programs that are worth watching and watch them on your time, not the time chosen by the networks.  Too often a family sits down to dinner without saying a word to one another as they watch TV silently and mindlessly until it is time for bed.

Couples spend hours apart as one goes to bed and the other stays up till the wee hours continuing to vegetate.

When I was a boy and television was new, I would often watch until programming stopped.  Hanging in there till the last strains of the Star Spangled Banner died away and then staying just a bit longer to stare at the test pattern and listen to the hiss of emptiness.

4.  Choose to LIVE instead of watching other people “pretend to live.”  As Joan Rivers would say, “Reality TV is about as real as my face.”

I will never forget hearing in the distance a little voice,  “Daddy, Daddy, Daddy!  There was a tug on my sleeve that made me realize this wasn’t a distant voice, it was my princess trying to get my attention. “What is it?” I said gruffly without taking my eyes from the television.  After all, Charlie’s Angels were in trouble.  Her next words penetrated to my soul.  “Never mind.” the disappointed, tiny voice whispered,  as she turned to walk away.  I scooped her up and apologized for allowing anything to be more important than listening to what she wanted to say.  Occasionally I still find myself doing this with people I love. I need to constantly be vigilant.  Am I the only one?

  • Think of the things you could accomplish with 5 hours every day.
  • Think about the positive memories and relationships you could create with 9 years of your life.
  • Think about the many alternatives of positive input that outweigh the passive nature of watching television.

The bottom line is this:  If you don’t set rules for this house guest called television it will rule you and your life.

How do you control TV in your home?
What positive things have you found on TV?






  1. Now that the weather is warming up, Al Gore would call it proof of global warming, it’ll get a lot easier to give up TV. I find that watching the right shows helps with my memory, which leads me to believe that not all TV is bad for you
    With that being said Watching reruns of Steve McQueen in Wanted Dead or Alive did score me a very nice anniversary present.

  2. It may seem simplistic, but I’ve found that as I add more of the good things into my life (relationships, books, ministry, healthy food), I’ve simply run out of time to turn on the TV and watch anything on it. I didn’t DO anything to remove the “bad” (or maybe even “good”) I just added the “best” and it just fell away. That doesn’t mean I have it perfectly figured out, because I don’t, but I’ve found that’s controlled the TV in my life.

    I’m definitely a sucker for Jeopardy, though… So I’ll let myself watch it if I do something else at the same time. 😉

  3. I totally agree. It inspired a song I wrote a few years ago comparing prime time today vs. 1968. Below are a few verses and chorus.

    All that violence on our TV,
    Our world is in a mess.
    We need a dose of Red Skelton,
    Saying good night and God Bless.

    All that sinning and killing and other things so wrong,
    Hey I’m The Biggest Loser,
    For sitting there so long.

    Well here’s a question for us that just might make us blush.
    What shows would we be watching, if Jesus was sitting right there with us?

    Andy didn’t live with Helen,
    Miss Kitty not with Matt.
    And 24/7 slanted news, I didn’t have to deal with that.
    I think I see the cause of our moral deterioration,
    It’s a product of our 35 inch, flat screen education.
    It’s a product of our 35 inch, 45 inch, 55 inch, HD, LED, LCD, Plasma, Education.

  4. Years ago I realized the addictive nature of TV on me personally and at the same time became disgusted with most of the programming. And now there are very few things I watch: the winter and summer Olympics I enjoy and Duck Dynasty is fun once in a while. When a good movie comes out, like the Narnia series or Lord of the Rings, Son of God, etc., we will do a family movie night. Mostly though, like Taryn, better things have replaced it in my life.

    Our children rarely watch on school nights (there just isn’t time!). And on weekends, it’s limited to maybe one movie or a short program/documentary.

    It does help that our main TV is in the basement and there is no TV in the bedroom!

    Your post is witty, informative, and convicting, Ken. Thanks again.

  5. I grew up with a tv, but no cable. So we had movies, but nothing else. (Funny how incredulous my classmates were when I told them this.) Now that I have Netflix and Hulu, I realize how glad I am that I didn’t grow up with that constant stream. It means that now, I will get tired of tv after an hour or two, and then want to do something else.

  6. About 20 years ago I realized there was nothing on TV that I need. Back then I thought I needed to watch the news as my background is journalism. Ha! One night I fell asleep watching the useless local 11 p.m. news and woke up at 2 p.m. to a disgusting ad for telephone sex talk. I got rid of my TV the next day and never looked back. Yes, I spend a lot of time on the internet, but I choose what I read and watch and when. AND I can keep up with REAL news from National Right to Life News Today, the most comprehensive and important news source in the modern media.

  7. I cannot follow the first three points of advice because I don’t own a TV, have not since 2001. Ask me if I miss it? Hint: A two letter word beginning with the letter “N” and ending with the letter “O”. Let the cable and sat companies figure out how to sell me now! 🙂

  8. I gave up TV many years ago and I haven’t missed it one bit. We now have a computer that we can stream Netflix and limited TV programs on and it’s not on more than two nights a week and never during the day. Best decision I ever made.

  9. Wow. You nailed it. I’ve personally found that the times I’m least excited about life is when I watch the most TV, and the times I’m most excited about life I watch the least TV. For whatever reason. Good thoughts, very well written.

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  11. Fantastic! My family and I put the TV away for Lent 20 years ago and we took it out only once to watch our own show in 2007. We ordered cable for one month and then cancelled. Seriously, we haven’t missed it.

  12. Thanks Ken for the reminder. We did a radical thing and spent seven years without a TV in the house. I’m thinking a fast is in order.


  13. We are currently working on this in our home. We do not have cable or satellite, but the “good movies” we purchased on DVD are getting way too much of our attention as of late.

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