Why is TV good for you?

Some critics have called TV a bad influence, a poor use of time or a wasteland of low-quality programming supported by relentless commercials. Those points of view have become hopelessly outdated in the modern age of TV programming. Research shows that TV is good for its viewers psychologically, sociologically, educationally and through its potential influence on public policy. The best modern TV programmers focus on providing superior content that emphasizes solid information, strong production values and compelling storytelling. The benefits of TV far outweigh any drawbacks.

TV can have positive psychological effects

An academic study highlighted by the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin concluded that watching TV shows about nature can aid in soothing the nerves of viewers. People who participated in the study reported that they had a more pleasant disposition, less stress and more energy after viewing a series of nature programs on TV. Participants were also more likely to be more generous and to report more positive inner feelings after watching the nature programs. The authors of the study suggested that watching some TV shows can help boost the overall mental health of viewers.

A comprehensive study in the Journal of Consumer Research concluded that simply having the TV on can increase creativity. Participants in the study completed a number of tasks while sounds that simulated TV noise played in the background. The top researcher conducting the study concluded that sounds from the TV allow people's brains to work at a higher level. This effect was particularly notable when the tasks involved creative thinking.

An academic study published in the periodical Social Psychological and Personality Science concluded that viewers watching their favorite TV shows experienced increases in willpower and self-control. The author of the study explained that the act of watching the shows allowed viewers to gain the positive benefits of interacting with the shows' characters through the screen.

TV can influence public policy

The best TV shows have always addressed important social and political issues. Exceptional TV shows can have a significant influence on shaping public opinion regarding the major issues of the day. TV also can influence political leaders as they make decisions on legislation that can affect many people in society.

The U.S. Congress passed a major measure called the Patient Navigator Outreach and Chronic Disease Prevention Act after some lawmakers watched clips of an episode of a popular network TV medical drama. The goal of the measure was to create more links between the realms of physicians and patients in the healthcare system. The storyline of the TV program focused on a cancer patient who was initially reluctant to accept treatment. Several lawmakers said the program influenced their vote in a positive way.

A storyline about pesticides on a popular network crime drama prompted the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to issue a response that clarified the agency's stance on pesticides. The agency's response increased the public's knowledge of the matter.

TV can help society make connections

TV viewing is often classified as a solitary activity. There are certainly major exceptions to that rule. Popular televised events such as the Olympics, the World Cup and the Super Bowl serve as shared experiences to bring people together in an increasingly fragmented media world. These prominent events are excellent examples of enjoyable spectacles that help disparate segments of society make connections with each other.

Political debates, elections and messages from candidates for public office also fit into the category of TV programming that allows society to form connections. Research shows that this type of TV programming can strengthen society by encouraging viewers to learn more about the world around them.

TV can be a learning tool

The modern lineup of TV channels in a typical home includes a wealth of programming focusing on topics such as technology, history, literature, science, home improvement, construction and general education. Viewing educational TV programs can be a superb use of time for people who are interested in increasing their knowledge on a variety of subjects. Enhanced levels of knowledge can improve viewers' mindsets, their standing in the community and their overall lives.

Dramas and other scripted TV shows can increase viewers' mental acumen as well. In the past, most TV shows relied on simple plots and a basic group of characters. Many modern TV shows have broken that mold. Today's TV shows feature complex casts of characters, interrelated story lines and intricate plots. Viewers are encouraged to use their brains to follow the plots, stay engaged with the action and think ahead to future episodes. All of these factors can sharpen the minds of viewers.