Which is More Important

Old TelevisionI thought I was going to get through the entire day with nothing to talk about. I could say a lot about programming, but that would be really boring. Saving myself from interminable tedium, I took a break and thumbed through my latest print issue of WIRED. Quickly reading through an article about the future (like, a few months) of television, I ran across some interesting statistics.

Do you remember, a few years back, when people were reporting about how much time kids spend watching TV and what a shame that was? One set I ran across in a quick search comes from an article by Gentile and Walsh, in Applied Development Psychology. They reported (2002) that American children, ages 2-17, watched TV an average of 24 hours per week (that’s 3.5 hours a day). The article in WIRED comes at our television environment from a different direction, stating that

A household with 300 cable or satellite channels has access to 7,000 hours of programming a day…(That’s 49,000 hours a week)

I got to thinking about these two statistics, and started wondering which is more significant to our efforts in preparing children for their future. Which has more baring on what and how we teach our children?


Gentile, D.A., Walsh, D. A. (2002, January 28). A normative study of family media habits. Applied Developmental Psychology, 23, 157-178.

McHugh, Josh. “The Super Network.” WIRED Magazine September 2005: 107-109.

6 thoughts on “Which is More Important”

  1. I think what is most important is the amount of information out there. The Internet is not the only vehicle that is growing, the amount of information and the choices we have today through the television and satellite radio are amazing as well. Again, it is how to access the information you need that becomes the most important skill we can teach students. Teaching students how to find, evaluate, and apply the information are the skills we need to be teaching students today so they will be successful tomorrow.

  2. Hi David,

    I am not terribly sure the amount of available TV programming has a great deal of meaning. When I was a little boy growing up on the Iowa prairie, we had two channels that didn’t start programming until Sunrise Semester at 6am and ended with the National Anthem at, what, 11pm? But I was still a TV-fiend and would have watched TV all day had I more understanding parents. As it was, I’m sure I watched more than average of 3.5 hours a day.

    In fact, I remember reading that TV watching itself is actually decreasing among our Net Genners while the use of other media (computer and Internet use, gaming etc.) is on the rise, and now nearly equals that of TV watching (3.1 hours to 3.5 hours). We might interpret this as a hot medium is driving out a cool medium – passivity being replaced by activity (at least fast twitch muscle action). I am hoping that is a good thing.

    The other observation I might make is that computer games seem to be evolving into some sort of blend of narrative (TV show) and regular game. My Net Gen son tells me “plots” are considered an important element in good game design. (I wouldn’t know – I still haven’t mastered Pong.)

    Thanks, David, for sharing your 2 Cents worth. It’s always a pleasure to read your thoughts.


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