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TV or Not TV? That Is the Question!

Modern technology is both a boon and a bane. The advances we see each year can provide us with many resources. But even the best of them can become a tremendous drain on our time if not used wisely. Television, video games, and even my beloved internet can become, as my sister so aptly put it, just another thing to spend the entire day in front of. ?

Given these concerns, and given the ease with which you can passively plop down in front of the boob tube ? and let the day just drift away, I have collected a number of methods to help fend off the power the remote control might exercise over your family. Below you will find some of the best.

  • 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 conrols 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!

We do have a TV, actually we have three. We do watch them. Sometimes we even watch too much (although never approaching the staggering statistics that say kids watch an average of six hours per day). But truly I wouldn ?t want to be rid of the old box. The power of this technology has the potential of being very beneficial and, consequently, of being very destructive as well. If we make wise choices about what, when, and how much we use this learning tool, and teach our children to do likewise, we can realize great benefits without all the drawbacks.

{ 10 comments… add one }
  • Tinkerbell April 20, 2008, 4:33 pm

    I already made a comment similar to this on another thread, but I think we are close to just getting rid of it altogether. We have the “1 hour per day of t.v. or computer time”, and it is a nightmare. They manipulate in any way they can. They spend the other hours of the day moping around saying, “There’s nothing to do-o”. It is driving me crazy!

  • davidson April 20, 2008, 11:32 pm

    We have an easy answer for this. I’m not a TV watcher, and we don’t have cable. We get two and a half channels (the half is because we have one channel that we can only SORT OF see through the static.) I tell the kids they can watch the TV until something objectionable comes on, which usually happens only a few minutes into a show. They have become self-monitoring. I rarely have to turn the TV off any more. When they hear something objectionable, they turn it off themselves, and I am grateful for that. But every now and then, they find something interesting and less objectionable, and we watch it together, usually while we’re doing other things. (You know, crocheting doilies. Or clipping our thick yellow toenails. I even put a set of 3 lb. and 5lb. weights in the living room, and they do sets while they watch.) I just like having us all together in one room.

  • delmar April 20, 2008, 11:48 pm

    If I could subscribe to just a few specific channels then we’d be great! Food Network, HGTV, DIY, TLC & Discovery. Maybe some PBS & Disney for the kids during their hours. I’d even go for a couple of available major networks and sports channels….such as the Soccer channel….in English. (woo hoo a whole 6-9 channels would be approved by me)

    If for some odd reason I’m out of viewing range doing something aroud the house, my nearly 4 year old will alert me to the fact that “such and such” is coming on the tv, and “I’m not allowed to watch that”…”please come change the channel or shut it off.” She also tattles on her older sister. This is honestly one of the times I allow tattling.

  • east-of-eden April 21, 2008, 5:00 pm

    I don’t think I could give up my satellite dish, I love CNN and Glenn Beck and Law and Order re-runs too much. Delmar, with Dish Service, they have a family package of channels that have those you’ve listed, I think it’s only about $20 a month too.

    With that said, we don’t really watch too much Network TV etc. We have a few shows we tune into but that’s about it. If we do watch it’s BBC dramas or something high and cultured.

  • delmar April 21, 2008, 9:14 pm

    east- as soon as we move into our new house on may 18th we plan on looking into dish network. thanks for the heads up!!! i must have a couple of basic networks as i am addicted to “greys anatomy” and my hubby loves “heroes”. There i said it, i love my tv time. Other than that we like CSI type shows and military stuff.

  • kiar April 21, 2008, 10:54 pm

    NCIS! officially addicted to it, as well as Crossing Jordan. (I get to watch it at my friends house when the kids in the daycare are sleeping, she tivo’s it and its our guilty pleasure!) I haven’t been watching too much tv lately since we paid tithing instead of dish bill, and they turned it off. Franky, I don’t want to have it turned back on. weird as this sounds, its so nice to not have it on all the time. the kids are going outside more, or watching Veggie Tales, or Max Lucado videos. So we might just pay off what we owe, and then get rid of it! Hubbie is even agreeing.

  • delmar April 22, 2008, 5:38 pm

    kiar!!! then you’re going to send your hugely pregnant friend the dish you already own, right???? i must have food network in my home! there are some days the tv is off forever and other days its on constantly….it depends how sick people are or aren’t. while we were “Stuck” at the house the other day for 10 hours we watched about 4 hours of the ncis marathon. it was great and luckily something to do….other than plotting our escape! hahaha

  • naomlette April 23, 2008, 3:23 am

    I used to watch a TON of TV (or be online), about 12+ hours a day. Why? Because I thought I had nothing better to do. I love to crochet and unfortunately, it gets tedious really fast if I don’t have something on to watch that was interesting. But then I got a job outside the house, and I never have time any more. It’s kind of nice, except that I hardly crochet any more. I’m actually thinking of talking to my husband about getting rid of the rabbit ears since neither of us watch. We have to keep the TV though, as we are both gamers.

  • jennycherie April 23, 2008, 6:27 am

    You know, we tend to take away the TV completely from time to time. I always feel so *extreme* and weird when we do it and I really miss watching an occasional show but there is no question that our children function better without tv. Every time we decide now to let them watch a movie (maybe once/week), we regret it. They have a hard time sleeping and they get wilder (if that is possible) for the rest of that day or night. I really want to be able to have the tv out and let them watch a show every now and then but it is so hard to police and I pull my hair out! As soon as we get a rolling tv cart, I think it’s going into the closet and we’re going to create a larger living room in this closet of a house by getting rid of the entertainment center all together (oh, and save buckets of money by canceling our $11/month cable!).

  • marathonermom April 23, 2008, 11:26 am

    My TV faves are Battlestar Galactica and The Office, with So You Think You Can Dance added to the rotation during the summer. I don’t want to outright ban the tube, because I know it would make it that much more attractive to my kids. I just try to limit how much and what type of programming they see. And I try to get them involved in other activities as much as possible so they don’t even notice they’re not watching TV!

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