Do you watch TV for more than 2 hours a day
Ii might seem like a daft question in this day and age with everything else we have going on around us . . . but you watch some TV, and you read too in some form or another. . . right?
But does the time you spend on one outweigh the other by more than 4:1?
Well, if the time you spend watching TV is less than four times the time you spend reading then you are in the minority – less than 4% (UK figures)
I was not surprised to learn this, but when I gave it some thought, all the same it was a cold and startling fact.
15-19 year olds read on average 9 minutes per day and watch 2.6 hours of TV according to a recent study from The University of Sussex. That is a ratio of 16:1
For people over 75 the average was closer to 4:1– still watching a lot more TV than reading books.
On digging further I wasn’t surprised either to find that watching too much TV can actually lower your brain’s verbal IQ, increase the frontal lobe grey matter . . . even make you less empathetic as a person! We read this sort of stuff all the time and it kind of makes sense in the same way that having an unbalanced diet isn’t going to do you any good.
But what really got me thinking was this quote
Dr. Gregory Berns of The Emory University outlines the benefits of employing the brain to read:
“At a minimum, we can say that reading stories—especially those with strong narrative arcs—reconfigures brain networks for at least a few days. It shows how stories can stay with us. This may have profound implications for children and the role of reading in shaping their brains.”
This is pretty profound stuff and it should be good for readers and authors alike because the way our brains work when we read stimulates our senses in a different way from the visuals we are so used to having shoved in front of us on a daily basis.
Action scenes on TV are often so overdone to the point that we have now become desensitised to them. This often results in us not really caring about the characters because we know ‘It’s only a film!’
We don’t often say that about a book do we? In fact we feel cheated if we can’t care enough about the characters. That is because we use our brains in a different way when we read. It is why you will often hear said:
“The film wasn’t anything like as good as the book”
Lots of people will love the film . . . but have they read the book (if there is one)? Are they in a position to compare?
If they haven’t read the book, then I say not.
Still more individuals will talk in great detail about a good read to one another than will about a film or TV show.
I have worked closely with teenagers over the years and have got to know their reading habits. The one thing that sticks out is their reluctance to read fiction because there are so many other options available to them that offer immediate fulfilment. They get their kicks from TV and films, video games and social media platforms. Reading is involved with all of these that they have access to and find so much easier and more appealing.
We have never lived in a time where so many mediums of choice are available. It’s rare nowadays to find two people that like to listen to their music by exactly the same means such are the multitude of choices available as to what device you might want to use.
So what are the new generation going to read in the years ahead?
Well, the one common theme that that always scores well is action, but there is more to it than this. Mystery, suspense, romance, science fiction, thrillers . . . they all appeal to our human emotions and that will always be the case.
You see, both reading and writing are fuel for our imagination, but in slightly different ways. Think of it as input and output in perpetuality: What the writer puts out the reader takes in, and then readers can have a strong output in terms of response and emotional reaction. Authors respond to this feedback over time. This is no different from the way in which any business works: if a car manufacturers produces a beautiful car that doesn’t sell, then that feedback will cause them to change the design until kit does.
Authors react to feedback and build it into their future writing.
The best advice I have had as a writer has come from other readers, not other writers, and that is because of the emotional attachment and human responses which, although we find sometimes hard to understand, are never faked.
So, read on. It undoubtedly makes you a more rounded individual. And while you hold your head up to reading, know that there are still many adults that are missing out.
As an author I think one way I try to address this by making my books fast-paced That is something I can do whatever the genre. With the ease of access digital media offers us comes a reduced attention span – particularly amongst the younger generation. It therefore stands to reason that although we know that serious readers like a longer read, many partial readers simply don’t!
So, should any of us really be concerned?
Well, for our children perhaps the answer is yes?
But what is more important is to channel and focus. If a young person does most of their reading on screen taking in instructions for some video game or other then it is still reading. Their interest is still being channelled towards something related to a fantasy world and at some point in the future they might develop it into a habit of reading fiction.
If you are reading this it counts as time per day spent reading . . . it doesn’t mean watching TV has to take a cut (unless you’re an obsessive – then you might want to reconsider!).
The message is clear:
Readers: Read anything and everything you can in the time you have, read what you like because reading is reading and it broadens your horizons and feeds the brain in a way that no activity can.
Writers: Write what you like, write from the heart, but focus . . . always focus things and move it along at a fast pace. Slow books loose people quite quickly.
My success has been modest, but one thing I have found is that if you can be unique - slightly different, and not spend too long over-thinking things, then - you are going to help a whole lot of readers . . . and you know what . . . I never could watch more than 2 hours of TV a day . . .I always felt like I was missing out somewhere.