Ever had a guest you wish you hadn't invited?  Maybe you were looking forward to a little fun and found a lot of wasted time instead.  If so, maybe you'll tune right in to this picture of an ungracious guest.  

He dominates the room, grabbing attention whenever he can.

But a little attention is never enough – he’s always demanding more.  He monopolizes time and conversations, making it difficult to get a word in edgewise.  His voice is too loud, his manners pathetic.  He swears and takes God's name in vain, has little respect for family ties, pokes fun at things that matter deeply, tells off-color jokes in front of the children.

Yet he's one of the most popular guests in town.  Despite his atrocious manners, his calendar is full – all day, all night, weekdays, weekends, rain or shine, in sickness or in health.

And he doesn't discriminate.  You'll find him in the poorest homes and the richest, among the happy and the miserable.  All ages, races, and colors. 

Maybe you've spent some time with this ill-mannered guest yourself.  Maybe sometimes you wish you hadn't.

Somehow he seems to mix up your priorities.  You find he’s rubbed off on you, putting words into your mouth that weren't there before.  You hear yourself being sarcastic or mean to family.  You find yourself distracted from the ideals you’ve set for yourself.  

So why do you keep turning on the tube?

Good question, considering that in the United States our children watch an average of 21 to 27 hours of television per week.  An even better question considering what they're watching.  

The American Psychological Association has concluded that the average child watching two to four hours of television a day will witness 8,000 murders and 100,000 other acts of violence before graduating from elementary school.

What are the effects of watching all this violence?  Is it harmless, as some say?  Or if it is harmful, how can harmfulness be measured?  

In one study conducted at Pennsylvania State University, one hundred preschoolers watched 20 to 30 minutes of television three times a week for four weeks.  Half the children watched cartoons with lots of violence, half watched shows with none.

Only four to six hours of viewing spread out over a month.  Yet researchers found a clear difference between the two groups of children.

Those who watched violent cartoons were more likely to hurt others, argue, and disobey than those who watched non-violent programs.  

This study is typical of research throughout the country, which verifies that television violence makes viewers more prone to aggressive behavior in real life. 

So, you may be thinking, I stay away from the violent shows.  Well, what about sex, what about crude jokes, what about sarcasm and meanness and putdowns of others?  If viewing violence leads to violence, then surely sitcoms driven by low standards drag down our own.

While some may dispute the influence of television on our  daily lives, advertisers don't.  They're so convinced of the power of television to mold our thoughts and behavior that they spend billions each year on commercials.

And nowadays movies are filled with subtle and not-so-subtle ads.  That familiar candy bar on the table is no coincidence – the manufacturer paid to have it there.  If the hero picks it up, they pay big bucks.  If he actually takes a bite, they pay mega bucks.

Advertisers know those dollars are well spent.  If the star of the show does it, chances are we will want to do it too.  

“Bad company corrupts good character,” Proverbs 13:20 And parents warn their children to be careful in choosing their friends.  

And this is why, for those who watch a lot of television, there is a question: "How much of who you are is who you really are – the person you were meant you to be?  And how much is who you've become because of what you've been watching?"  For anyone who's not sure of the answer to that question, T.V. has become more than just an annoyance, it's a menace.  

He's like a friend who's worn out his welcome.  Even if he doesn't spill his drink or drop crumbs, he's still a guest who leaves a mess behind.  

Barbara Curtis is an author and mother of 12 who blogs at MommyLife.net.

Publication date: November 2, 2012