The Truth About Media Addiction


There is no denying that in the past few decades, TV has become the main hub of several forms of entertainment. At the beginning, turning on the television meant tuning into a few different shows on a handful of networks, with the occasional long feature film thrown in for something really special. But, as the yeas passed, other forms of entertainment found a welcoming home on television screens, namely films from VHS to Blu-rays and video games from a variety of different systems. The latter now represent a significant portion of the entertainment industry with millions of people playing each year. Many believe that video games are actually more popular now with young people than any other form of entertainment.

When television began, all of the shows that you could tune into were very neutral in their tone and purpose. Now, all manner of opinions and images can show up on your TV screen. Are these mediums influencing our emotions and thoughts? And, are people spending too much of their time in front of screens these day? As we added color to television sets, the answers today don’t seem to be black and white.

Are people really addicted to gaming, TV and films?

All of this has led many to believe that TV, video games and films might be an addiction. For example, in an article for the Scientific American Magazine, professors of Journalism and Media Studies Robert Kubey and Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi came with a uniquely insightful definition for the potential harms of TV that, while more general in scope, is no less accurate:

“When the habit interferes with the ability to grow, to learn new things, to lead an active life, then it does constitute a kind of dependence and should be taken seriously.”

Now, it seems that we have gone far beyond simply using television as a harmless means of entertainment at the end of a long day or for a few hours on the weekend or after school. There are children and teenagers who spend an average of 9 hours per day plugged into some sort of media, not including what they use at school.

What causes this addiction?

The first thing that comes to mind when searching for what exactly makes people addicted to TV, gaming and films is that they are entertaining content. And while this might be true in a few cases, it is hard to think of any content being great enough to justify the excessive number of hours a day that people spend in front of screens.

The amount of time that teens spend in front of the television has doubled in just the last decade. The key to this increase seems to be related to another problem of modern society: Stress. According to Charles N. Ropper, PHD and Licensed Chemical Dependency Counselor (LCDC), just as people addicted to drugs and alcohol often consume them to escape from reality, people addicted to TV, gaming and films also seem to use TV to find relief from stress. In fact, the rise of celebrity reality shows, the latest Lady Gaga’s music video, films like the Breaking Dawn series or video games like the latest Angry Birds: All seem to be intended to keep people craving more.

All of these, coupled with our anxiety and desire to forget about the day-to-day problems, can turn TV into the perfect escape. For a few, this escape can become an addiction. One that is virtually free and ready on demand.

So, what is the solution? It might lie in going back to the basics and what people used to do for fun “back in the old days” before we all had televisions, computers and games systems in our home. Exercise and getting outside are proven to relieve far more stress than television or video games ever have. Another killer of stress and anxiety for many is getting out into the world and interacting with others. Extra curricular activities like sports, music or dance are great ways to get teens involved, interested and inspired to live life beyond their multiple screens.