Why Nobody Died When We Got Rid Of TV.

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I mentioned recently that we don’t have TV. Readers reacted. It was cute.

Our decision to remove television from our daily lives was not entirely for the reasons you might think. Also, our kids are actually allowed to watch it a little from the internet. But they rarely choose to. So here’s how that phenomenon came about and why…

The Reasons: A Combo of Old-Fashioned Values, Creativity Values, & Futurist-Techie Geekiness

Old Fashioned Values: It’s probably obvious from my blog that I only embody some old-fashioned values while many others I shun. I’m quite strict and traditional when it comes to what I think is appropriate content for children — more strict even than many of the religious families I know. There are a lot of “children” shows that are surprisingly not really child-friendly.

Restricting content is the easy part, though. You just tell the kids why they can’t watch a certain show and then empathize with their wishes that TV producers wouldn’t deliver that kind of content to children. Kids understand honest reasoning, and they respond well to your empathy toward their unfulfilled wishes.

Creativity Values: It’s the general limiting of time on the television that I found difficult. For years we let our kids watch TV, more than I ever thought I would as a parent. I am an avid non-watcher. I always thought I’d be good at limiting the amount they watched. It turns out that if you’re also distracted with an exciting lot of projects you enjoy, it’s hard to monitor amounts. And when a child sinks into the TV habit, it’s hard for him or her to motivate themselves to do creative stuff.

Plus, all day, everyday, our kids were constant infomercials to Izzy and me, pitching sales lines like, “At Best Western, if you drop a towel, they’ll pick it up for you!”

We supposedly needed this mattress, and that kitchen device, and a million different other things. The kids were adding items to their own Christmas list every single day starting Dec. 26 of each new year.

Futurist Techie Geekiness:
Then something amazing happened. Television shows began to appear on the internet! Izzy loves diving into the future headfirst before anyone else has gotten there, and as soon as a handful of shows became available online he sat the family down and made a proposition. He told the kids that we would let them each buy a TV show episode from Netflix every week in place of the TV. They could also watch some shows online.

The kids agreed. We canceled the satellite. For probably four years now, absolutely zero shows feed though the big black box in our living room. It only works for gaming and DVD’s now. We don’t even have local channels.

Then The Magic Happenend

Something truly magical and amazing happened two or three weeks after we got rid of TV — the kids lost interest! They stopped requesting the weekly show we promised to purchase for them. Since that time, internet television has grown and shows are easier to access than ever (and are usually free) but our kids only sit down to watch them around once a month or so. It’s amazing.
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A few weeks ago we were having dinner and one of the kids piped up, “It’s so weird how a bunch of my friends will start talking about some toy that they all know about but I’ve never heard of it. It’s because they learn about all this stuff on commercials.”

The other of our older two children agreed to noticing the same thing.

Uh-oh. Here it comes, I thought. They’re going to tell us that it bugs them how weird and different we are from everybody else.

“So, how do you feel about that?” I asked.

“It’s okay,” one said.

“Yeah, I don’t care,” said the other. “It’s just weird that they all know about the same things.”

Wow. I was not expecting them to be cool with that. I mean, I personally have never minded being different all my life. But I don’t know many other people who are cool with it.

So we talked about how much time they have to be creative and make things — which they do daily — and they said it’s a good trade.

We may be secularist, vegan, non-materialist, non-TV weirdo’s, but we’re a bit Leave It To Beaver, too.

7 thoughts on “Why Nobody Died When We Got Rid Of TV.”

  1. That’s interesting. I’ve known people who removed the tv because they said there’s nothing of value on there. Since hubby and I end up watching tons of History channel, Discovery, Food Network, and PBS, I actually beg to differ on that one. But I have noticed over the years that alot of kid shows just seem DUMB. And I say that being a HUGE Sesame Street fan. Now that I’m 3 weeks away from having my first baby, I think hubby and I are going to have to do some serious thinking about what we let her watch. I don’t want to be like my own parents, that sometimes censored things that I still don’t understand why. But conversely, I don’t want my kid watching all this really dumb stuff. I think I need to stock up on more books.

  2. This is such an interesting subject. We have networks but no cable/satellite and our kids watch up to four kid-shows per week (often less lately). They only have a choice of a couple of PBS programs. This is way more limited than everyone we know, and comes off strange to many (maybe not as strange as no TV, ha!) After reading a book called NurtureShock, I can put into words some of the objections I have to most kid content. Much of it really isn’t good for kids. Even the PBS stuff.

    But the real driver was just an effect we noticed: When our older son started waking up early he was already old enough to play by himself until we were showered, etc. We thought it might be ok for him to watch a show while we were getting dressed, but it changed his whole demeanor. He suddenly went from an energetic, book-loving, creative, social kid to a kid who only wanted to watch TV and pouted for a couple of hours after it was off. He was sluggish and couldn’t think of anything to do. I know this isn’t what happens to all or even most kids but the effect was unmistakable on ours. Once we cut off the morning TV, he was back to building and drawing and being creative at the start of his day.

    Another great post, thanks 🙂

  3. Hi Noell:

    I just became a member of Paperclipping & watched you on my internet tv last night 🙂 while I did some late night scrapbooking.

    I know what you mean about tv; I’d like to get my family on that no tv bandwagon, but I’m just not sure I’ll have any takers. I don’t read a lot but I did read both of Katrina Kennison’s books “Mitten Strings For God” & “The Gift of An Ordinary Day” (there’s also an amazing youtube video if you search the gift of an ordinary day on youtube).

    She writes about why her family doesn’t watch tv and how they downsized and simplified and took life slower etc. I think you’d like these books. They are delightful reads – especially when read while in a hammock or in a bubblebath. Good stuff for Moms who are too busy / want to have a more simple old fashioned family life.

    🙂 Katie Scott

  4. I love this post. We just switched from cable to an antenna cutting our stations down to a handful. It was a compromise for us for now (I’d like it gone). We don’t let our 18 month old watch any TV and so many people think that’s weird—she’s one! I also tend to fall into the TV trap and all of the sudden an hour is gone—I hate that.

  5. I found your blog through Kristin Werner and appearing on your podcast, super cool. I was reading this post about not having TV and I felt so much better to know there are others out there just like my family. We have 4 kids, 3 under 3 and we just didn’t have time to watch TV. We got rid of TV in Jan of this year. My oldest daughter took the biggest hit she is unfortunately a couch potato. My lil ones don’t care much for TV. My son (3) likes a select few movies that he can watch on Netflix and that is all my husband and I watch.

    I am so happy with my decision to not have TV. Whenever I go to the gym I watch some TV, more so just look at it while I listen to my music but I am constantly disappointed at what is on, reruns or just boring crap. LOL!

    That is so awesome you have been without it for so long. I hope to continue down that same road.

    Great blog!

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