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Background television makes you stupid. Or perhaps you’re an idiot for failing to turn off the television in the first place. Either way, turn the damn thing off when you’re not watching.

My wife and I think that background television (the continued use of the television even though its audience is engaged in other activities) is the opiate of the masses.
The basest and most vile form of audio input.

A distracting annoyance of the highest regard.

As unfortunate and unfair as it may be, we are likely to think less of a person who has a television blaring in the background of their home when it is not actually being watched.


Our feelings on this subject are strong.

We have also long suspected that you have to be an idiot to leave your television on all day long, and low and behold, it turns out that we were right. Either you were an idiot to start, or the persistent use of background television has turned you into an idiot, so says a recent study cited in TIME:

The researchers found that the average American kid was exposed to 232.2 minutes of background television per day — when the TV was on, but the child was engaged in another activity. Younger children and African-America children were exposed to the most background television on average.

“We were ready and willing to accept that the exposure would be high, but we were kind of shocked at how high it really was,” says study author Matthew Lapierre, a doctoral candidate and lecturer at the University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg School for Communication. “The fact that kids are exposed to about four hours on average per day definitely knocked us back on our heels a bit.”

Previous research has found that exposure to background television is linked to lower attention spans, fewer and lower-quality parent-child interactions, and reduced performance in cognitive tasks, the authors said in the study.

What is most interesting about the study is that it only looks at the effects of background television on children.

Here’s the thing:

Kids are resilient. They can overcome overwhelming odds. They are highly adaptable and possess enormous reserves of unlocked potential. Most important, despite the amount of television they are being exposed to, they are also reading and writing on an almost daily basis thanks to school.

Adults are decidedly less resilient. Their ability to overcome obstacles is oftentimes limited. Their adaptability diminishes with age. Many do not read or write on a weekly, monthly, or even yearly basis.

If background television is reducing children’s performance in cognitive tasks, just imagine what might be happening to the less resilient, less literate adult population.

I’m willing to bet that background television is making them complete and total morons. And I can’t wait for the research that backs me up.