When I was 5 years old, my dad took my family's little black-and-white TV and heaved the dense cube into a parking lot dumpster. It was a move I didn't fully understand at the time - his short-term rationale was that my siblings and I were watching too much Sesame Street - but one that shaped my childhood (for the better, I believe).
As you probably know, there's a strong health argument against heavy TV viewing. Physical inactivity is linked with obesity and type 2 diabetes, among other adverse health consequences. Now, in light of a study published earlier this year by Abby King, PhD, head of Stanford's Prevention Research Center, there may be the potential to more accurately target behavioral intervention programs to better help people moderate their viewing time.
Social context, King found, can be a strong predictor of viewing habits. She found that prolonged TV viewing was associated with lower household incomes, poorer rated overall physical and mental health and negative neighborhood environments (heavy traffic and crime, lack of neighborhood lighting and poor scenery).
An interesting point: In the study subgroup with the highest level of viewing (in which 80 percent of subjects watched more than 14 hours of TV per week), eating dinner in front of the TV was a common behavior.
King explains the research in a brief podcast, which is well worth the listen. Her study appeared in the January edition of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.
(NB: I came across King's name in the School of Medicine Web portal that tracks the use federal stimulus dollars here. The site is a great place to find fascinating ongoing medical research. King is using stimulus funding to find ways to help older adults stay mobile.)