There's no vaccine that can turn back the clock on America's post-pandemic addiction to streaming television.
Last July, Nielsen's Streaming Meter data found that "Americans age two and older spent more than 123 billion minutes streaming video content the week of July 20, 2020" [emphasis added]. That figure was up 33 percent year-over-year from 2019. And, OnePoll reported in April 2020 that the "Average American is streaming 8 hours of content daily."
This month, even as most statewide pandemic lockdown measures are lifted in time for summer, more than 60 percent plan to stream as much TV viewing as they did during the height of the countrywide shutdown, according to a recent survey. Another survey found 66 percent of adult consumers "will watch the same amount of streaming" and, worse, "13 percent say they will watch even more."
That's a tragedy on so many levels. Let's step back and consider the stewardship implications of being ensconced in front of the tube for hours at a time—over a lifetime. It's a documented fact that most people now spend more than 4 hours per day streaming various programs. For the sake of argument, let's assume there's no TV viewing until age five because it's damaging to a child's development. Watching just 3 hours per day of television seven days a week equals 21 hours per week and swells to 1,092 hours per year. From age 5 to 65 are 60 years. So, 60 years of viewing x 1,092 hours per year translates to 65,520 hours staring at a screen.
Hard to believe, isn't it? If you and I aren't careful, we'll log 65,520 hours sitting in a chair while our body atrophies before television's hypnotic electronic eye. And that's just at the national average. There are millions of people who view more than 3 hours a day.
This addiction to the screen starts far too young. As I've previously noted, various medical associations, such as the American Academy of Pediatrics, strongly recommend children refrain from all TV viewing until they reach age two, and then only an hour per day until at least age five. These professionals are concerned that the tube has a negative impact on early childhood development.
Let's take this a step further by dividing 65,520 cumulative hours of TV by age 65 by the total number of hours in one year (8,760). Guess what? At that pace, we'll spend 7.48 years viewing television by age 65.
The first time I did this calculation, the thought crossed my mind, "I could go to college two more times instead of vegging in front of the tube." At the very least, I could get a master's degree … or spend more intimate time with my children ... or plan dozens of special things to do with my wife. Time is precious. Once it's spent, we can't buy more at any price.
I wonder what King David would have said about the idea of wasting away seven precious years of life in such a lifeless activity. In a way, David did comment when he said: "Show me, LORD, my life's end and the number of my days; let me know how fleeting my life is" (Psalm 39:4). David knew that there's no stopping time. It's over before we know it. Time spent is time gone. Forever.
The apostle Paul reminds us that "each of us will give an account of ourselves to God" (Romans 14:12 NIV). In other words, let's make the most of the time we're given. Don't get me wrong. I'm not suggesting we should abandon all viewing. I'm advocating for more balance. That said, even if everything streaming on TV was praiseworthy, what else might you do with seven years of your life?
The views expressed in this commentary do not necessarily reflect those of Christian Headlines.
Photo courtesy: Unsplash/Glenn Carstens-Peters
Bob DeMoss is a New York Times bestselling author of more than 40 books including collaborations with Phil Robertson/Duck Dynasty, Jim Daly/Focus on the Family, Andy Stanley, and Tim LaHaye/Left Behind. His latest short story is "Hazel: The Outlaw Mummy". Visit BobDeMoss.com.