You’ve probably heard sermons on the sins of drunkenness, drug abuse and greed. The Bible also commands us to flee from sexual immorality. So Christians often hear warnings about the contents of TV programs or internet pornography, and rightly so!—because Christians should not be enslaved to immorality, just as we should not live for drugs or sell out for money. These are addictions which clearly we must fight against.

In regard to TV and the internet, we must be careful about the moral quality of the programs and sites we see. But there is a more subtle addiction that is widespread in acceptance today: the excessive quantity of our time spent watching TV or browsing online.

How do you know if you are an excessive TV viewer or online user? The definition of TV or online addiction is imprecise, yet the same criteria for addictions can apply to your use of your TV and internet. For example:

  • Do I spend a great deal of time using it?
  • Do I use it more often than I intend?
  • Do I think about reducing use or have I made repeated unsuccessful efforts to reduce use?
  • Do I give up important social, family or occupational activities to use it?
  • Have I felt withdrawal symptoms when stopping?

“TV is part of them.”

In a 2002 article for Scientific American magazine, professors Robert Kubey and Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi describe the effects of heavy or prolonged TV viewing:

“To some researchers, the most convincing parallel between TV and addictive drugs is that people experience withdrawal symptoms when they cut back on viewing. Nearly 40 years ago Gary A. Steiner of the University of Chicago collected fascinating individual accounts of families whose set had broken—this back in the days when households generally had only one set: “The family walked around like a chicken without a head.” “It was terrible. We did nothing—my husband and I talked.” “Screamed constantly. Children bothered me, and my nerves were on edge. Tried to interest them in games, but impossible. TV is part of them.”

“In experiments, families have volunteered or been paid to stop viewing, typically for a week or a month. Many could not complete the period of abstinence…”

“If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out”

It’s not easy to quit. In the same article, another researcher evaluated studies of people who quit TV “cold turkey” and concluded:

“The first three or four days for most persons were the worst… in over half of all the households, during these first few days of loss, the regular routines were disrupted, family members had difficulties in dealing with the newly available time, anxiety and aggressions were expressed…. People living alone tended to be bored and irritated….”

The encouraging news? After just one week, the participants began adapting to their TV-less existence. This suggests to me that the best solution for an addiction is the radical solution. So: if your TV or computer causes you to sin…

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About Ben Kwok

Ben is part of a church plant team establishing the Rouse Hill Church. He holds a Master of Divinity degree. Ben and his wife Diahanna live in Sydney, Australia with their four young children.

2 Comments

  1. Jane 14 October, 2009 at 11:23 am - Reply

    Ben, I have been wanting to see something on this topic. I loved the magazine quotes. Write some more! I love it when the internet goes down at our place. We find that old-fashioned things to do are quite stimulating. Thanks for the good post.

  2. Frank Kwok 15 October, 2009 at 11:51 am - Reply

    Good timely warning. I believe that internet time can easily rob our prayer time. I think the cure must include taking delight in the Lord. Surely discovering the greatness of our God and be involved in the work of His kingdom must take priority over everything else. Well said Ben!

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