Electronic companions

If this latest report on our TV viewing habits is any indication, Fido is going to be one depressed puppy dog. Forget about spending quality time with Fido and the family, not to mention the Lord. Many Americans would rather spend time alone with their televisions, even when they’re at home with their spouse and children.

At least that’s what the numbers from an alarming new survey reveal. We have truly come to the point where we have completely redefined our relationship with our TVs. As scary as this seems, we now see the TV as less than a means of entertainment and more and more as a “companion.” I don’t know about you, but outside of some of the really good religious programming such as EWTN and maybe some of the classic movies channels, when I turn on the TV I am not seeing too many folks that I want to hang out with — unless you consider Honey Boo Boo’s clan and the Kardashians as good, wholesome company.

Commissioned by LG Electronics and released late last month, the survey results are great news for the electronics industry, but bad news for those trying to get closer to God and each other. Here are just a few of the statistics:

• 38 percent of Americans turn on the TV as soon as they wake up.

• 61 percent fall asleep with the TV on.

• 45 percent switch on their TV within just 15 minutes of arriving home.

• 35 percent say their relationship with their TV is so strong, they would rather watch the same show at the same time as family members, but alone in a separate room.

• 73 percent leave their TV on for background noise and while doing chores.

How sad is it that we value our favorite shows so much that we will walk away from our loved ones, shut the door and plop down in front of the TV? We do this, according to the survey, because we simply do not want to be bothered or have interruptions during our favorite programs. How many people are convincing themselves that this is actually family time just because their kids have not left the building?

In his interview with the Argentinian weekly Viva, marking 500 days of his pontificate, Pope Francis stressed the importance of parents spending leisure time with their children. I can’t read the pope’s mind, but it is pretty clear that sitting around watching TV in separate rooms was not what he was referring to. He said he would often ask mothers in Buenos Aires how often they played with their children: “It was an unexpected question. It is hard. The parents go to work and come back when the children are asleep.”

In the case of the moms, they weren’t lounging around. They were working long hours trying to help put food on the table.

But the pope still stresses the importance of downtime together, including sharing in cultural activities such as art and reading.

Replacing family with TV is one major issue. Then there is our relationship with God. Sexual and violent content, and mindless reality TV shows make up a majority of today’s programming. I would much rather hear about TV viewers and radio listeners watching and listening to Catholic media and falling asleep to the words of, say, Mother Angelica or Father Mitch Pacwa. Unfortunately, that is simply not the case.

When I sat down to read this study, I couldn’t help but remember what Pope Benedict XVI told us several years ago: “We can no longer hear God. There are too many frequencies filling our ears.” Apparently we can’t hear our family members any more, either.

Teresa Tomeo is the host of “Catholic Connection,” produced by Ave Maria Radio and heard daily on EWTN Global Catholic Radio and Sirius Channel 130.