This month we mark eight years in our current house, and never in that time have we owned a TV. It wasn’t a sudden decision, we’d been weaning ourselves and the kids back in our previous living quarters and moving seemed like the perfect time to make a fresh start. I know there’s all sorts of studies out there regarding kids and TV, but they didn’t play a huge role in our decision. We went with a gut feeling and just kept on going.
Now that we’re many years our from our initial experiment, I can say it’s been a good move for our family, but certainly as our children have aged and technology has advanced, we’ve allowed screens, and TV shows back into our lives. I think it’s always good to take stock of the ‘whys’ in a family to make sure bad practices aren’t continuing out of habit. I thought I would share some of what I’ve learned and noticed after we gave up TV, in case anyone else is considering it.
First and foremost, I’m not judging you!!! Most people’s initial reactions are either, we’re crazy, or they spend twenty minutes explaining why they still have TVs in their homes. I don’t know why this is. Just because we don’t have a TV doesn’t mean I think families with TVs are awful. I usually reassure people that my children eat lots of artificial colors, eschew wooden toys, ride bikes without helmets and still spend at least an hour a day on their tablets. Clearly I’m not vying for the title of world’s best, crunchy, hippy, attachment, natural, [insert trendy adjective here] mom. So please, calm down, then go watch Sister Wives. It’s totally okay.
Now some positive things I’ve noticed (or why we still don’t have a TV.)
1. My default response to the exhaustion at the end of a long day is no longer to collapse on the couch and turn on the TV. If we do want to watch something as a family, we set aside a special time for it and we pick out very specific movies or shows which we view on our computer via Hulu, Amazon or DVD. We don’t mindlessly sit and flip. And personally, I’ve discovered that when I have any free time, I have other things I’d rather do; write, read or even surf the web. So, sometimes even though we’re TV free, I’m still in front of a glowing monitor, I just prefer other activities, which I might never discovered, or made time for, with a TV still in our home. (If you know that your favorite thing to do is watch a certain show, that’s great! I just learned following shows wasn’t for me.)
2. We’re not bombarded with negative stimuli. Back when we had a TV and a major disaster struck, I was glued to the news. I would become very emotionally involved. Nowadays, I’m still on top of the news, and I do run the risk of occasionally becoming too worked up over something on social media, but, it’s much easier to shut down the constant barrage of negativity. My kids are also knowledgable of world events without watching gruesome videos or hearing graphic depictions on TV (most of which are sensationalized to increase ratings). We talk about world events, pray as a family and if they’re interested we share news stories and pictures with them from reputable online sources.
3. Less exposure to mainstream / secular cultural values. I find it’s much easier to keep materialism, vanity, greed and envy in check when I’m not bombarded with commercials. And I know my kids never know what toys they NEED until they happen to watch TV at someone else’s house. In addition, so many shows perpetuate negative stereotypes or normalize sinful behaviors, it’s easier to just select certain shows or movies to watch in advance, rather than take our chances on what happens to be in the prime time line up. No TV means more mindful viewing overall in our home.
Negatives (though none of these really upset me all that much).
1. All that being said, I do sometimes feel left out when everyone is buzzing about a certain show. I’m sure I’d really like Downton Abbey or whatever else people are watching, but once we gave up the TV I realized I just didn’t care enough about TV shows to invest my time into them, even if that made me an outsider. (I also don’t get most Dr. Who references which makes me very unpopular at parties.)
2. I miss Sunday football games. Since giving up TV, I don’t really follow my favorite team all that much. My husband was a huge ESPN fan; Sports Center was always on, especially during football season. Watching Sunday games together was a part of our relationship from the beginning. So, this has been difficult, however, we’ve done many things through the years to lessen our sorrow.
- Go to a restaurant and watch an important game.
- Get the NFL Live audio pass and listen to games instead.
- Go to a friend’s house to socialize and watch a game.
- Catch up on stats, highlights, etc. online.
- Watch playoff games and the Super Bowl online. (a fairly recent development)
Honestly, our new life sans TV is still the best, even in this regard. We both had to admit that, in the past, our game day behavior was, ahem, less than stellar. Our older kids might even remember Mama or Papa yelling loudly at the screen or being unapproachable when their team wasn’t doing well. We don’t get nearly as fired up just listening to a game and we’re both less likely to curse and throw things when we’re out in public.
3. TVs are really distracting when we go out, for Tony and I, and the kids. If we’re at a restaurant with TVs and we’re not there for a game, we still get sucked in by whatever is on. If we’re at a hotel or someone’s house, the kids always want to watch TV and flip channels endlessly. The novelty never seems to wear off. Doesn’t matter what other opportunities we may have, they’re content to sit and channel surf.
4. It was certainly MUCH easier to limit screen time when the kids were younger. However, as they aged, they wanted time on the computer, then more time, then they wanted to see particular cartoons or movies their friends were talking about. They used visits with family members to cram as much TV into their heads as they possibly could. So, we introduced screens with limits. We’d gotten to the point where we had to trust the kids to be mindful with their own viewing habits and hope our influence would guide them. I can see it will be an ongoing process as we help them overcome the sometimes overwhelming urge to veg out with screens, so they can hopefully learn where their God-given talents lie.
So that’s what I’ve learned. I’m interested to hear from any other TV free families, or hear the benefits to unlimited TV viewing. (We can have a friendly debate here, it’s not Facebook.) Feel free to ask any questions, and please, don’t feel the need to defend your 3820 inch flat screen.
My hubby and I went 6 months without a TV when we moved states and I issue it sometimes. More talking to each other occured.
We don’t have a tv either, well we have one in the bedroom, but all you can do is watch dvd’s on it. We let the kids watch dvd’s on the computer, but sometimes I wish we didn’t even have that. It seems like at the perfect moment when everyone is playing with theirs toys, or looking at a book, one of the kids will announce rather loudly they would like to watch a show. Then everyone stops what their doing to beg me to let them watch a dvd they’ve probably seen so many times, they’ve memorized it! There are times I really love putting on a show, like when I’m trying to cook, but other times I would love for them to spend time playing together, playing outside, or looking at a good book. I agree about tvs being really distracted when going out. I try to talk and it seems everyone is staring towards the tv instead of us using the time to get to talk to each other. I notice sometimes I’ll drift to looking at my phone when were out and I’m trying not to do that either. I want to enjoy the moment with my own family and not worry so much what everyone else is doing with their family. Thank you for sharing! It helps motivate me to spend more quality time with my family.
I love this. I’ve been trying to cut the cable cord (it’s so expensive) but the Eagles are extremely important in this house. I have no problem with scouring the Internet to find my shows for free but we haven’t been able to find a good sports package so hopefully they’ll come out with one!
My husband is a big football fan as well. We bought an inexpensive antenna and can still get all the big games during football season. That’s about the only time we use the regular tv at all. It’s not espn, but he can watch the colts play!
I also don’t know why people feel the need to explain/justify their decision to own a TV! It’s like people are so overly sensitive now that they internalize everything and think that all things somehow are critiques directed towards them…sheesh. Anywho, this is really neat! I love how you mention “mindful” viewing. My husband and I live in an apartment that came fully furnished with 2 TVs, and bunches of neat channels are on the TVs, but we only have used them to watch TV once (to see a little bit of the Super Bowl). The only reason why we use them at all is for video games or as a screen for my husband’s computer. I honestly love that we don’t really “do” TV and haven’t in our nearly 3 years of marriage. I like intentionally watching things on our computer or doing non-electornic activities way more than mindless channel surfing. I am always way behind everyone else on pop culture references and I don’t really keep up with lots of TV shows (I only just saw seasons 1 & 2 of Downton Abbey a few weeks ago, when I had a free trial of Amazon Prime), but since I was homeschooled as a kid, I’m kind of used to not understanding all the pop culture stuff 😉
HAHA! That’s really funny that your’e “unpopular” at parties for not getting most Doctor Who references. Oh goodness, that basically describes how I used to be…until a few summers back, when I found the entire 2005 reboot at the library and watched it all.
Thanks for putting this together! I love hearing your outlook and experience.
We so have a TV and my three year old is getting to an age where she is always bugging me to watch shows, if not on TV then on my phone or the iPad. I prefer to let her watch the TV because the screen is going to be father from her face and I’m in better charge of what’s on, whereas on the ipad she can easily stumble upon anything the internet has the offer. So that’s one thing. We also don’t have normal cable or anything, we just have an XBOX with different apps – PBS Kids, Amazon, and YouTube. So we don’t flip through channels like we did on a “normal” TV. I’m pretty happy with how things are but also sometimes wishing we didn’t have any screens at all because my daughter gets a little annoying about it sometimes. But if I’m really careful about what we watch, it can be really beneficial for us. Like right now as I type this she’s watching a Kids Health video about he lungs… so that’s cool! Haha
One idea we’ve had is to arrange our living room so the TV isn’t at the focus of the room, instead put toys or bookshelves. At our old apartment we did that and it was AMAZING. But in the house we are now, the TV is front and center and I can see a huge difference in how much we sit in front of it.
Anyways, just my thoughts. 🙂
We don’t have cable, but we do have netflix. We are big fans of magic school bus and wild kratts 🙂 I try to limit screens to after dinner chores are done, but it doesn’t always work out that way. I don’t think they are evil by any means, but I can definitely tell a difference if my kids have been face down in them for hours on end!
We have netflix and Amazon prime. We allow 1 (or maybe 2 depending on if my husband is on duty!) show a day -not every day – but most days. My kiddos are also big fans of magic school bus and wild kratts. We don’t have tablets and they don’t use our phones. They also don’t use the computer for any games. Kelly, what do you do for your kids to keep them safe on the internet?
Probably the main thing is all screens are used in common areas. They can’t take their tablets to their rooms or with them when they go out. Our computer sits in our living room, and our laptop must be used in common areas. They also aren’t allowed to create accounts on sites without us checking them out. I see all the apps they download and I check their browsing history. I know all their passwords and logins. I don’t use filtering software, but they’re never searching online or on YouTube without me nearby. My kids are good at self policing right now too, but it’s an ongoing conversation. We have discussed pornography with the older two, less because of what I think they’ll see at turn up at home and more what they might see at a friends house or on someone else’s phone.
Thank you! I’d love to see a future post about how/when you talked to your children about the birds and the bees type stuff.
I just wanted to say that as I scrolled through my blogs quickly, I thought your post was about your free tv home and I wondered how you got it!
We don’t have cable, just an antenna, and mostly I miss sports stuff — I hate that ESPN carries most main stream sporting events that used to be on networks.
My kids just watch you tube videos mostly (we love studio C). And we’ve purchased some DVDs of old tv shows or the occasional movie.
We don’t have TV either but my husband streams the Redskins’ games on his computer, so that might be an option for you. I like that the commercials are often cut off.
Have to plug the TV-B-Gone! Invaluable for use at restaurants and such where, as you said, the tv is right there and everyone zones out on it instead of talking to each other. Anyway, we got it on Amazon and it’s just a universal remote with a sticker to look a bit like a smartphone so no one else knows it was you who just shut off the tv.
This is hilarious! Had no idea something like that existed. We don’t eat out enough for that, but thanks for the tip.
We were pretty much TV free when my children were growing up, and it worked well for us. They got to watch (unlimited, apparently) TV at grandparents’ house and saw shows at friends’ homes, so they were never completely out of the loop with what other kids were talking about. Now that it’s just the two of us, we cancelled cable and just use our TV for the occasional DVD. We read a lot, and I can waste time online with the best of them! – nancyo
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