Television's Effects on Families' Use of Time
John P. Robinson
University of Maryland, College Park
As television in America enters its fifth decade, there are still many aspects of its influence about which little has been documented. One of them is the effect television has had on the everyday lives of families and of people who live in families. That is largely because the most widely available audience measurements deal far more with program popularity or with individuals as potential consumers of products than with how television is affecting the rest of their lives.
In the absence of appropriate data on audience behavior, television has been accused of having deleterious effects in many areas of daily life. These include emphasizing or justifying violence as a solution to daily problems, decreasing children's school performance, discouraging discourse, promoting superficial personality styles, trivializing values, fostering consumerism, and glorifying materialism, among many others. Most of these effects, of course, have a direct bearing on the nature and quality of family life.
There are, however, a few studies that have examined these larger roles of television as it relates to the full round of other daily activities. Most of this research has been directed at individuals who are members of families, rather than specifically at families as interactive and functioning units of analysis. However, these studies do address television's role in affecting the nature and structure of all the other activities in which each family member engages. More specifically, data gathered from individuals in families also allows one to examine how being a member of a family unit affects one's daily life.
As we see here, however, it is not at all clear that television's pervasive role in affecting the activity patterns and lives of members of family units is that much different from that for members of nonfamily units. To be sure, how one family member chooses to spend time does affect how other members
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Publication information: Book title: Television and the American Family. Contributors: Jennings Bryant - Editor. Publisher: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. Place of publication: Hillsdale, NJ. Publication year: 1990. Page number: 195.
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