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The Great Experiment

Television plays a major role in American life. According to statistics from A.C. Nielsen Co., the average American watches more than four hours of television a day, seven days a week. Over 99% of American households own televisions. Two-thirds of all American homes have three or more television sets. The average American child sees 20,000 television commercials each year. The same child will see 200,000 violent acts on television by the age of 18, including 40,000 murders.

Television is often been blamed for making Americans fat. The time devoted to television cuts down on otherwise more active pursuits. Television food advertising works aggressively to increase the consumption of processed foods, so-called “lite” products aside.

All this said, American television has a great deal of quality programming (for those who are looking for it). American television reflects some true aspects of American life, and distorts and over-simplifies others. It can open up minds to the tremendous diversity of life on the earth, or it can numb the senses like an addictive drug, truly earning the nickname of the “idiot box.”

You can learn a great deal about American life and values by watching television, but television does not tell the whole story. America is a culturally rich nation, and television, with its quick bits and flashes of light, often misses the mark. Use it as a cultural indicator only with great care.

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