Turning Off the Television

If you follow me on Twitter, you know that my family has recently stopped watching television. Many people are surprised to hear this, especially since I have young children. It’s been a gradual process getting us to this point and I’d like to share with you a few of the reasons that influenced our decision.

My husband and I both watched a lot of television as kids. We were both raised in homes where the TV was on most nights of the week and when we got married, we carried on that tradition. We would plan our week around our favorite shows and when nothing was on, we would catch up on past seasons of sitcoms on DVD. Occasionally we would feel guilty, and “fast” TV for a few weeks, but we always went back to our old habits.

When we had Buddy. we continued our TV watching in the same fashion, only now adding Disney and Nick Jr. to our lineup. As Buddy approached his second birthday, I became more concerned of what we were watching when he was in the room. Even the shows aimed at families seemed to have inappropriate content. Also, his ever increasing desire to watch television bothered me. He was always asking to watch something instead of wanting to play.

My first step toward less television was to remove the TV from the playroom and hide his DVD’s from plain view. After a few days, his asking to watch television lessened dramatically. I would allow him to watch 30 minutes per day in the living room when I felt I needed a break. That grew to be less and less, and became more like only once or twice a week..

My own television watching was tapering off as well. I had pretty much stopped watching sitcoms, but loved my HGTV decorating shows. I thought they were harmless, because there was no bad language or sexual content. But after a while, I realized that those shows were making me want things I couldn’t afford and making me unhappy with what I had. I stopped watching television altogether a few months ago and you would be amazed at all of the things I have been able to do with the time I had been wasting. People ask me all the time how I get so much done with 2 small children. It’s simple…I don’t waste time by watching TV.

My husband was a little harder to get on board. He loved his late shows and old sitcom reruns. But our Direct TV contract was up this month and he decided to let it go and join us in not watching television. Now he is able to get a lot accomplished in the evening that he was not doing before. Things like blogging, reading, working on graphic design…still relaxing, but more productive.

We still own a television but are in the process of selling it. We have a computer where we can watch the occasional DVD if we choose. I am so glad that we are doing this now, instead of waiting until our children are older when it would be much harder on them.

If someone were to ask me why we no longer watch television, here are my top 3 reasons:

  1. TV is a big waste of time. I would rather raise my children to be creative and productive, and to be good stewards of their time. Simply, I want us to LIVE our lives, instead of watching fake people live fake lives as we sit passively in front of a big, glowing box. 
  2. TV shows give us unrealistic expectations of ourselves. I struggled a lot as a teen with my self-image, often comparing the way I looked to the “perfect” celebrities. As an adult, I struggled with keeping up with the lifestyles portrayed by what I saw. I want my children to be content with who they are and what they have and not try to be like the people they are seeing on TV.
  3. Honestly, there is NOTHING worth watching. As I mentioned before, they are even sneaking in bad language and sexual innuendos in children’ programming. Have you ever watched Teen Nick? It is shameful the shows they are targeting toward teens. And it’s only going to get worse. I can’t imagine what TV will be like when my boys are teenagers. 
So those are my reasons. I hope I have encouraged you to examine your own television habits. It’s never too late to make some changes. If you think it would be impossible to get rid of your TV, take small steps. 
  • Each week, decrease the amount your family is watching by 30 minutes. 
  • Put all of your DVD’s in a cabinet or drawer where they are out of sight. 
  • Say no to shows that do not line up with your family values. 
  • Come up with creative things to do when you would normally watch TV: board games, crafts, walks, reading.
Before you know it, you won’t even miss it!
For more on this subject, I recommend:
Kids & Commercialism by New American Dream



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  1. this is timely…every time I thought of getting rid of the tv, I had a new baby and the only way I’d get rest, calm flaring tempers, or just make dinner was to throw on a movie. We’ve never had tv per se, but I am increasingly disturbed by the messages my girls get about being a girl…as my three year old wants to “get married” in every game while my son saves the world, builds inventions, and climbs stuff. We just redecorated our livingroom and our tv just doesn’t FIT…I resisted my husband’s suggestion to just get rid of it…but you may have just tipped the balance in his favour. Thanks so much.

  2. Absolutely love this! What an inspiration you and your family are.

  3. We are a no TV family as well, and couldn’t be happier about it. It IS amazing what you can accomplish when the TV is off! I just wanted to comment, that I empathize with what you said about your love of the HGTV channel, and how you came to realize they made you want things you didn’t have and unhappy with what you DID have… This may be the one thing I am happiest about, with our no-TV progres. My not “wanting” and my increased gratitude. On that note, however, I am currently feeling that way now about my once-loved magazines, and actually… about hanging out in the “blog-o-sphere”. I’m wondering if these are the next “addictions” that I may have to kick. 🙂 I know I’m spending more money now quilting, and knitting, and crafting than I EVER did before. Maybe that’s not such a bad addiction though, comparatively. 🙂

  4. I am loving no TV at our house! I am pregnant with our first, and am glad to know that the sound of the tv will not be “home” to our child. My husband is a very talented photographer in his spare time, and it has allowed us both to read more as well as spending time together, and working on creative things like his pictures. Here is his website (I’m a proud wife).

    no tv= more creativity and time to share it with others!!!

  5. yes! how wonderful for all of you. We did it gradually many years ago and are so glad that we did. It is amazing how much you can get accomplished each day without television viewing and how much more creative our young children became.
    Warm wishes, Tonya

  6. I agree that TV can be a big waste of time, that is one of the reasons we decided to get rid of cable. I still like having my TV for watching movies though. I think movies are a form of artistic expression just like music, writing, design, etc. Writing a plot, script or jokes for a movie takes just as much talent as writing a song or even a book. I love that we have a creative home and we love all different kinds of art, in all kinds of different forms. Creativity is something that is extremely close to my heart so I had to comment on this. I think a movie can be a fun change for a family activity. It is an art form that I hate to see neglected. Extreme moderation needs to be practiced though and balance is key, but that is with every area of our lives. I am meeting more and more people who don’t have cable so I agree with Crystal that I think our computers and phones are our new “glowing boxes” that we are gonna have to look out for. I am proud of you guys for re-evaluating family time and free time.

  7. Thanks for all the comments.

    Crystal – I used to consider myself a magazine-a-holic and I am so happy to be free from that “addiction”! I still like to browse occasionally for sources of inspiration but no longer treat them as my decorating “bibles” like I once did. I agree that things like blogs and crafting can become addictive as well. I guess daily checking to make sure our use of time is in line with our true priorities is the best way to strive for balance.

    Amanda – I agree that there are movies out there that can be considered works of art worth appreciation. As a family, we will treat ourselves to a family movie night a few times a month. I definitely want my children to experience the wonder and beauty of such classics as Mary Poppins, The Wizard of Oz,and The Sound of Music to name a few of my favorites.

    Everyone – I am glad to know that I am not alone in my choices. I hope more and more people will choose to turn off their TV’s.

  8. We decided when we got married to get rid of the TV. That was 3.5 years ago and we haven’t regretted it one minute! We spend more time doing things together as a family than we ever would if we had the “idiot box” (Hubby’s term). It has definitely made our marriage stronger, but you’re right: other people think we are from Mars. I really enjoy not having my weekly schedule dictated by what’s on TV, and I like not knowing what new products are out there, or feeling the need to buy new clothes because of some ideal I see on TV.

    We’re excited to see the impact on our kids’ lives, too. When we go to someone else’s house Buttercup just stares at their TV like, “WHAT ON EARTH IS THAT THING?!” HA HA!

  9. Charisma – I love it when someone asks “Have you seen that funny commercial where…?” and I honestly have no idea what they are talking about. 🙂

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