When I was growing up, I used to be embarrassed when my friends talked about TV. There was nothing more shameful at that age than to be left out of a conversation. Now, I proudly shrug my shoulders when someone mentions a TV character. Often, when we tell someone that we don't watch TV, they give us a perplexed look and ask if it's “against our religion,” or if “the church” forbids it. Neither are true.
“I will set no worthless thing before my eyes.” ~Psalms 101:3
You can't have the TV on for more that 5 minutes without exposing yourself to base, witless humor. It amazes me that people just assume that TV is part of life and don't give it a second thought. So, while people are puzzled by our lack of TV, I am puzzled by the presence of TV in other peoples' homes.
A few months ago I made the bold move of canceling our cable service after our two-year contract had expired. I called when the kids were napping because, just as I expected, they transferred me to the department that handles cancellations (i.e. the people who try as hard as they can to convince me to keep giving them our money). I patiently and truthfully answered all his questions about my family. He tried to tell me that getting rid of TV would deprive my little ones of quality entertainment. For about two seconds, I really did wonder if I was being a bad mom by cutting them off from the world as portrayed on that 46 inch screen. Yet I stuck to my guns until he gave up, to which he defeatedly said, “Well, good luck with the no TV thing.” It was sort of like when you break up with someone and they pridefully say that I'll be sorry and come back soon. It's been five months and we haven't missed it at all.
But just to clarify, it's broadcast cable TV that we got rid of. We still use the TV for movies. We have a bookshelf full of children's movies for them to enjoy a few times a week. And Steve and I get movies at Red Box or the library when we are in the mood to be entertained. It's just not a habit and only occupies a small portion of our time.
It seems a crime that there are so many TV shows for children that claim to be “educational,” even though they are just flashing objects in front of their faces to hold their attention until the Fruit Loops commercial comes on. This misinformation rationalizes TV and lets caretakers sit the kids in front of the TV all day without feeling guilty about it. Yet kids clearly benefit more from real human interaction. With no TV to distract us, the kids and I spend more time playing during the day. I bring home a stack of books from the library and we snuggle up in bed to read together. They play with their toys and use their imaginations to take them places far better than that flat TV screen can. They even have the privilege of quiet time when playtime is over, when they can daydream and rest their young minds.
And it's not just for the kids, either. In fact, I now have more precious time to myself once the kids go to bed. With the extra hour at night, I can read a few chapters in the bible, make a scrapbook page, or make a greeting card for someone. The creativity flows much more freely without mind-numbing nonsense permeating from the TV.
And it's not about the money, either. Though $80 a month is pretty steep to pay for access to TV, the out-of-pocket expense is the least of all reasons. A more significant financial reason is that they make money off of our viewership. The steal our time and attention and sell it to advertisers who try to convince us that our lives would be much better if we buy whatever they are selling.
My parents didn't explain to me why we didn't watch TV. I just thought they were mean, boring, and culturally clueless. I plan on telling my kids why TV is not a part of their lives, so hopefully they too will be proud to be in the dark when their friends talk about it. Yet even if they don't get it, I'll be proud if they think that I, too, am mean, boring, and culturally clueless.