When I put a call out on Twitter for money advice for parents, author Zac Bissonnette responded with an unusual tip: “Put a sledgehammer through your TV… watching TV increases materialism.”
When I asked him for more details, he had this to say: “Marketers have used television to lure children into consumerism at younger and younger ages. And, as the research shows, a materialistic mindset is linked with poor psychological health and poor financial health. If you want your kids and yourself to have good financial and emotional lives, do something crazy: Cancel your cable and sell your TV before your newborn gets home.”
Bissonnette, who is working on a personal finance book, found one study that suggests “the more television you watch, the more materialistic you tend to become.” The researchers suggest that if Americans aren’t willing to get rid of their televisions altogether, then they might be able to control spending by at least putting some thought into the messages they are receiving over the airwaves, and remembering that not everyone can (or should) live like a reality-TV star.
In fact, distorted images of what’s “normal” is a big part of the TV-materialism connection, according to Bissonnette’s research. Since TV families have fancy homes and pools, we think we should, too.
Of course, letting Elmo entertain your child can give parents a much-needed break, so I’m certainly not going to follow Bissonnette’s advice and get rid of my television anytime soon. Although, I did stop to think about it when we were at the pharmacy recently and my toddler demanded an Elmo toothbrush.
Parents, what do you think—would you consider getting rid of the tube?