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By Laura Grace Tarpley

In what ways can it be beneficial to watch TV?

Watching television is a controversial pastime. Millions of people across America tune in to different programs each week. Netflix subscribers spend hours "binge watching" movies and their favorite television shows.

On the other hand, many people consider watching television a waste of time. They say doing so limits kids' imagination and prevents adults from being productive. They say people who watch television are less academically successful. [i]

It is an ongoing debate. There are benefits to watching television, and spending your weekends watching Hulu can actually be a learning experience. For those of you hungry for knowledge, here are a few reasons to turn on the tube:

  1. Television exposes you to new ideas

    Children's programs are the most obvious examples of learning through television. Kids learn the alphabet by watching Sesame Street and basic Spanish by watching Dora the Explorer. They are often introduced to these concepts for the first time by singing along with these shows' characters. [ii]

    Adults can learn from turning on the television, too. When you watch the Travel Channel, you learn details about other countries' cultures you never would have known otherwise. When you watch the Discovery Channel, you learn about animals and are exposed to science. ii

    If you watch certain channels, you learn about topics that interest you. You may even learn about things you never knew existed.

  2. You gain perspective on social issues

    Television programs include select social issues in their shows. If they have high viewership, these issues can quickly become hot-button topics among friends and family. [iii]

    Certain shows reveal their messages blatantly. People who have watched Glee probably give a lot of thought to how homosexual people are treated. The program shows gay students being bullied by peers, as well as emotionally accepted by their parents.

    Other shows are more subtle about their messages. For example, Gilmore Girls viewers are exposed to the concept of interracial dating. A Korean character and a Caucasian character fall in love and hide their relationship from the Korean parents. However, the controversy of interracial relationships does not fill Gilmore Girls message boards.

    Whether their tactics be overt or covert, programs express their social and political opinions. When you watch these programs, you become more aware of such issues.

  3. Certain programs want you to learn

    You may hear people say that watching television is a silly use of time. They say it doesn't challenge your brain as much as other activities, such as reading.

    People do not realize that many networks want their viewers to learn something when they watch their shows. If viewers like to learn about a certain topic, networks know they will keep tuning in to their station.

    Watching Top Chef, you learn about making food and the restaurant industry. Rick and Morty teaches people about various aspects of science and theology. Stephen Colbert interviews authors and politicians about their agendas. [iv]

You decide what you watch. Certain television shows give you more opportunities to learn than others. Do not write off television as a fool's activity.

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