Americans spend more than 33 hours a week watching television and streaming video over the Internet, according to research from Nielsen. This is almost as much time as adults spend working and children spend sleeping each week, and it underscores the importance of television in daily life. Because of the amount of time people spend in front of the small screen, there have been numerous studies, scores of articles, and entire organizations dedicated to publicizing the negative effects of television consumption; however, television also has some positive effects on its viewers.
Television can be used as a tool to motivate learning and increase awareness of public issues. For example, Education.com reports that public television programs emphasize literacy development. Using engaging characters and interesting stories, shows like “Sesame Street,” and “Sid the Science Kid,” motivate children to learn, while other specialty channels, such as Animal Planet and Discovery Channel, also provide educational content in an entertaining format. Some shows provide incidental educational value. For example, The University of Southern California and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention present the annual Sentinel Award to TV shows with story lines that educate viewers to make better health and safety choices.
Television also provides cultural experiences, which can help broaden viewers’ perspectives and increase tolerance and appreciation for different lifestyles. Shows like “National Geographic,” “House Hunters International,” and “The Amazing Race,” focus on life in parts of the world that may be unfamiliar to most Americans. Even shows that concentrate their efforts in the U.S., such as “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives,” and “House Hunters,” can improve cultural awareness by highlighting the foods, housing trends and customs in different regions of the country.
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While television is often criticized for isolating people, it can also bring them together, as demonstrated by the popularity of Super Bowl parties and other events in which people congregate around the television set. During the month-long telecast of March Madness, fans gather -- at work, in bars and other places -- to compare brackets, view college basketball games, and discuss the results. In addition, some TV shows invite viewers to share their opinions by calling in or posting comments.
The medium of television also serves to expose criminal activity. According to a 2011 article in ''Time'' magazine, the television show “America’s Most Wanted,” was "an unprecedented collaboration between law enforcement and television," and led to the capture of 1,154 fugitives as a result of phone tips from TV viewers. Kevin Perkins, an assistant director of the FBI's criminal investigation division told "Time," the agency captured 17 of its most highly-ranked fugitives and also solved over 550 cases as a result of TV viewer tips. Perkins also says that they've captured suspects within minutes of an episode airing on TV.
- Nielsen: How Americans Are Spending Their Media Time and Money
- Education: Studies Support Benefits of Educational TV for Reading
- PR Newswire: USC Annenberg School Announces the 14th Annual Sentinel for Health Awards Call for Entries
- Time.com: The End of American's Most Wanted: Good News for Criminals, Bad News for the FBI
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