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TV or Not TV? That Is the Question!

Has the television taken over the lives of all the members in your family? It takes no effort at all to get into this pattern. As Elder M. Russell Ballard noted:

Good families face very significant challenges in controlling the use of television and videotapes in their homes. I agree with Dr. Victor B. Cline when he said, I am convinced by a vast amount of research that the images, fantasies, and models which we are repeatedly exposed to in advertisements, entertainment, novels, motion pictures, and other works of art can and do ? affect the self-image and, later, the behavior of nearly all young people and adults too. ?

Do you accept this challenge or do you passively plop down in front of the boob tube ? and let the day just drift away? To combat the latter, I have collected a number of methods to help fend off the power of the remote control. Perhaps one will help your family find better forms of recreation.

  • The best idea of all is to be an example. Begging, pleading, and whining will always be less effective than a parent who always has something better to do than camp out on the couch. Read, play games, work out, talk anything that you have a passion for has great potential to rub off on your children ?if they can see you doing it.
  • Call on whatever powers you have at your disposal to cause lightening to strike at or very near your home with force enough to blow out any or all of the components in your television that are necessary for proper function.
    This happened to us twice within just a few months last year (even with surge suppressors on our electronics). Sounds nasty, but it turned out to be a blessing! When the TV, the VCR, the modem, and the motherboard are all lost in the blink of an eye, you may find yourself spending a few days in severe withdrawal (even for a non-television-co-dependent family like ours). After the initial shock (pardon the pun) wears off, you will all find yourselves doing lots of other things that are actually fun and interesting. Who would have known!!
    The result was so positive, that I was less than anxious to have the old box return from the shop after it ?s repair. The second incident actually made us a televisionless family, until my folks visited from out of town and couldn ?t bear to miss seeing BYU in the Copper Bowl!
    If forces of nature aren ?t cooperating you could take it upon yourself to remove the temptation. Put it in a closet temporarily, or put it in the attic. Have a TV-free week or two.
  • If complete removal of the TV isn ?t desired, an easy way to reduce the amount of time it consumes it to remove it from the center of your home ?s focus. Instead of having it in the living room, or even the family room, keep the TV in a den or an out of the way spare bedroom. Bring out interesting things (puzzles, books, games) to draw people to the other, TV-free rooms.
  • A fairly simple method is to allow only a limited number of viewing hours per day, per child. This method would be easy to implement with an only child, but could become a logistic nightmare in a large family. It may also invite semantic arguments of the But Suzy was watching Lassy. That wasn ?t my half hour. She turned it on. I was just in the room coloring ? variety.
  • Use parental controls to password-protect the television.
  • Television can be looked on as a privilege that must be earned. Some parents have their children pay a small sum out of their allowance in order to watch television.
  • Years ago I read of an ingenious system. A basket is filled with many small papers. On each paper is written either a chore or an activity. Each person is required to draw (at random) a piece of paper, and do whatever it says, in order to earn 15 or 30 minutes of viewing time. The listed items are not punishments or things that are terribly difficult. More than anything they are diversions, ones which often ends up being so interesting that the person forgets about the TV all together. Examples are: clean out the silverware drawer; run around the block; read a story to a younger sibling; jump on the trampoline for 20 minutes; write in your journal, etc.
  • If the TV ever becomes a big problem in our home, here ?s a method I ?m sure I ?ll try. At the beginning of each week, the family holds a council. As part of this planning session, each person gets to go through the local TV schedule and choose the program(s) they would like to watch. Once everyone has written down all their choices, they contract to watch only those shows.
    Although a bit time consuming in the planning stages, it makes people make a conscious choice, based on how interesting a show is to them. This would eliminate the nasty channel-surfing habit, when someone is just bored and looking for something ?anything ?to fill the time.
    Ah, but their is a bit more. While you may not watch something that you did not initially select, you are also not allowed to skip any programs that you contracted for! If you decide that you really want to watch the Greg-goes-hippy ? episode of The Brady Bunch, and your friends invite you to go swimming just when it is about to start ?well, that ?s just too darn bad! You can ?t break your contract. This last part is my favorite. It forces you to be very selective in your choices!
  • The last suggestion I came upon involved a bit of reverse psychology. All you have to do to get your kids to stop watching TV so much, ? reasoned one mother, is to use it as a punishment. ? Now while I haven ?t personally field-tested this approach, I can think of a couple of kids not mine of course for whom this would be quite effective. One hour of forced MTV for major infractions might do the trick!

Now that you’re clean and sober, are you bored out of your minds? If so, pick up a copy of 365 TV-Free Activities You Can Do With Your Child to get your head wrapped around a more active mode. Or, for an LDS perspective, look at John Bytheway’s Turn Off the TV and Get a Life!

Chances are you’ll find activities you forgot you enjoyed!

{ 11 comments… add one }

  • Rachel May 14, 2007, 8:47 pm

    We haven’t had commercial television (TV reception, local or cable) in our home since we were married, but we have a large collection of videos and DVDs. And we get around the commercial TV thing by just buying DVDs of the popular shows we like, so we’re really only keeping out the commercials.

    I have two small children, so that dictates our circumstances, and that will only last until my oldest is no longer interested in Dora: The rule is that only “kid shows” (G-rated) are watched during the day, and Mom and Dad can watch a “grownup shows” when kids are in bed. We have set limits on how much they can watch, but so far, I break those limits more than anyone. I mean, honestly, how does one get their laundry done or sit down to eat unless their toddlers/preschoolers are occupied occasionally? I know some children who can play independently for hours, but mine aren’t those children. However, I rely on the convenience of the television sometimes, so I know I need to work on it. (And thank heaven for warmer weather!! It’s going to make it possible!)

    Anyway, I love the suggestions in the article, particularly where you each choose what show you’re going to watch and when. Because we watch the shows we like whenever we have the time, I can only imagine how frustrating it would be to not be flexible! Fun article and real, concrete ideas for how to limit the junk that comes into our homes.

  • SilverRain May 15, 2007, 6:43 am

    I hate television for the most part, though periodically I watch it. Lately, I’ve been watching reruns of “Reba.” I get embarrassed with the commercials, especially when my daughter is in the room with me. I shudder to think of the message she will be getting from advertising media.

  • Oregonian May 15, 2007, 10:43 am

    Are there any clean, family-safe shows on any more?

  • SilverRain May 15, 2007, 12:13 pm

    “Reba.” Guess what – they even mention the “B” word! :)

  • Lewis_Family May 15, 2007, 1:15 pm

    I don’t think I remember adult tv, since having my baby ( she is now 20 months ) my watcing time consists of the wiggles, baby and little enstiens. Then heroes came along, and now I watch tv :)

  • alana May 15, 2007, 9:47 pm

    Our problem is NOT the tv. It is the COMPUTER! Now that is an article I could get into!

  • Alison Moore Smith May 15, 2007, 11:33 pm

    Oh, me, too, Alana. This article that I just updated to the blog side of the site was published about a decade ago. I had a web site back then (for my homeschool supply company), but there were only about 12 of us on the internet at all. Even though I was already addicted, the topic didn’t apply to too many of my readers. It’s certainly a different story now.

  • alana May 16, 2007, 7:03 am

    We are both so pathetic that we have to have rules, for US! No computer while the kids are home in the afternoon, until they go to bed. We were completely ignoring them, and letting them do anything as long as we were not interrupted, KWIM? It was pitiful, so now things are better. But I have to admit, that I am the one who breaks this rule most often. Which is humiliating, because I constantly accused my dh of being the one ‘addicted’ to the computer! :eyerolling:

  • Grace May 18, 2007, 9:56 pm

    We have found that a great cure for TV in our house has been Netflix. WE unsubscribed to cable about 4 years ago and replaced it with a Netflix membership. We can go online and select DVDs that the whole family can enjoy without commercials. My family only watches what has been selected and approved by me and my husband. All our favorite TV shows are on disc now, and we can watch them whenever we want. For every couple of adult-themed movies we order, we order something for the kids. My son is 9 and has really enjoyed the old episodes of Mork and Mindy, The Muppet Show and Greatest American Hero. We like to watch Star Trek, Monk and Alias together as a family and it enables us to be more interactive with each other while we watch because we can pause it to talk about it, get a snack or take bathroom breaks.
    I’ve really enjoyed the opportunity to cut out “garbage” TV in our home and we don’t mind being a couple of seasons behind. Beware, though: when we were watching the Survivor series, we had to refrain from logging on to see who wins! It was fun to be able to watch 4 episodes back to back, though, when the rest of the world had to wait a whole week for the next show!
    There still is no substitute for playing outside. Kids these days suffer from Nature Deficit Disorder. Playing outside is essential to their growth – imagination, health and personality are all developed in “outside” play. Create a healthy balance and be the one who makes the rules (don’t be pressured by what their friends are allowed to do) and they will thank you someday for a great childhood!

  • Alison Moore Smith May 19, 2007, 11:41 am

    Two of my daughters take a crochet class from a neighbor of mine. She has videos of the old Gilligan’s Island TV show. Alana and Monica (13 and 9) LOVE it. They think it’s hilarious. I would never have guessed.

  • Sharilee10 May 29, 2007, 5:41 am

    As Chapter Director for our local chapter of Parent Television Council (PTC) I found this discussion very interesting. In answer to the question are there any clean, family-safe shows anymore, unfortunately the answer is ‘Not very many!’ The PTC has a team of researchers that watch all of the shows and report on their content. Basically, they watch the garbage so that we don’t have to. You can register on their website at http://www.parentstv.org and they will send out a weekly email listing the family friendly shows coming up and reporting on those to steer clear of. They also do a lot of advocating with businesses and have been pretty successful in getting businesses to pull off of shows that are really out of line. We are working with a couple of legislatures to draft legislation for the next legislative session to address the issue and protect the airwaves. It’s worth a try! A couple of things to keep in mind:
    1. PTC focuses on the family hour
    2. They monitor for language, sex and violence. Therefore, they actually list Deal or No Deal and Dancing With the Stars as family friendly. Personally, I think the way the women are dressed objectifies women and I would not list them as family friendly even though they don’t have language, sex or violence.

    It is a really useful website for families. I encourage you to check it out and see if there is information there that is helpful to you and your family.

    As far as tv control at our house, we have time scouts on all of the tvs except for mine and one in the toy room. A time-scout is a little contraption that requires a special card (like a credit card) that I can add and subtract tv time. The kids get 2 hours per day– 14 hours every Friday. Once it’s gone, it’s gone. If they are particularly naughty then I can take time off. The kids hate it— I love it. As for the tv in the toy room, a little lock through the hole on the plug works wonders. They can’t watch it without me unlocking it (they haven’t even asked for months— I think we have too many tvs in the house!). And my tv is set so that they can’t change the channel without the remote, so if I hide the remote the tv is useless. It’s not a perfect system– I would rather just know that the kids would choose to play outside or read on their own, but since that’s not the case this helps me monitor tv time.

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