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Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Are we too busy to play with the kids or are we too idle?

A UNICEF report says that the British don't spend enough time with their children because they're too busy. This is a theme that seems to go unchallenged by the commentariat and politicians. They were talking about it on the World At One just now. "We all live busy lives" is one of those clich├ęs that is passed on and never examined as if that's just the inevitable price we pay for the life we lead, a bit like electricity and traffic.

The word "busy" implies that we're doing something important like work or cooking or checking our tax returns. But what we're probably "busy" doing in that time is watching TV. A recent survey found that the British watched an average of three hours forty five minutes every day. If they're being as honest as I am when the doctor asks me how much I drink in an average week, they're probably underestimating those hours.

Let's say they're watching four hours a day. That's 1,456 hours a year. That's almost sixty-one whole days a year spent watching TV. Even if you accept that some of the programmes we're watching might be passing on some worthwhile information, such as the value of spending more time with our children or going for a bracing walk, that's a mind-boggling share of time.

And if Twitter is anything to go by the people doing the heavy watching are just as likely to be the university-educated sorts with their iPads on their laps as the Jim Royles of this world. We're not busy. Just idle.