Last Friday, I received an ominous message from my wife during a meeting, asking me to call her quickly. Given the immediate nature of her request, I assumed that someone had either become gravely ill or passed away. At any rate, I excused myself from the meeting and rang her phone.

“Are you sitting down?” she asked. At that moment, my fears were confirmed. Something terrible had happened.

“I have some bad news,” she said, “Your middle son killed the television.”

I was tremendously relieved to hear that everyone was safe and sound. The sense of relief dissipated when she explained that my son had thrown a wooden block at the seven-year-old television mounted on our living room wall and shattered the screen.

The irony of having a child destroy my TV in the same week that I had written a column declaring the importance of fathers staying calm in the face of child-induced frustration was not lost on me. Thankfully, I followed my own advice.

I generally like to think of our family as relatively detached from the television. We have one television in the house, and my wife and I monitor the content and amount of time our children spend watching it. We play sports, enjoy the outdoors and have plenty of activities outside of the house. Maybe that is why I was so surprised at our response to the loss of the television.

The first telling reaction was from my eldest son, who offered the entire contents of his piggy bank to replace the television as soon as possible. He has amassed quite a collection of quarters that he dutifully guards. His complete willingness to part with all of them demonstrated how much he valued the television.

I quickly discovered the significant impact of television as a result of its absence. First, I noticed that the house was much quieter. It dawned on me that we often have the television on in the background, making noise even though nobody is watching. With the many important voices already competing for attention in my home, the television needlessly adds many more.

I also found some of that time I always seem to be missing. According to a Bureau of Labor Statistics survey released in June, Americans watched TV for 2.8 hours per day in 2013. If we spend a total of 16 hours between sleep and work, we are burning 35 percent of our discretionary time parked in front of the TV. In a world where I am pressed to find time for my friends, my church and even my family, dialing back my television consumption further could be a game changer.

When we are tired at the end of a long day, the TV can provide the feeling of friendly conversation or relational engagement without the effort. Some nights I sit next to my wife on the couch watching TV for an hour or two and fail to exchange even a handful of words. We may be together, but it hardly counts as quality time.

I am not against television, and we will replace the broken one. There are shows and movies that challenge our perspectives, that entertain us and even help us learn. At the same time, I have come to realize that my television is a powerful influence that demands both time and attention in my home. It creates a relational quality and feel without providing any actual relationships.

All of us have friends, spouses or children that need us to spend time and effort on our relationships with them. Most of us have obligations that already limit the time we have to do that. As a result, we must ensure that we touch the lives of the people we value and love before we turn on the TV.

I learned plenty on the day the TV died. Now I am just praying that it does not happen to my smartphone.

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