We decided before we got married not to have a television. It was because of a family I stayed with for a week right before our wedding day. The children and the parents in the family were all just so nice to one another, in a way I hadn't seen before. They didn't have a television, so we thought we'd try it...
It wasn't hard :) What did we do? We were in love; we played board games, went for walks and drives, read books, listened to music and the radio, invited friends over for dinner, and talked to one another. Occasionally a kind friend would feel sorry enough for us to offer us their old TV, but we always said no, thank you :)
As the children came (seven in ten years and yes, I've heard the jokes), I did sometimes regret them not having access to Sesame St. and Playschool. But eventually videos were introduced and we happily watched our first video, 'Aladdin.' enough times that our children could recite it word for word. (As luck would have it, we were in an area where there was poor reception, so we were able to have a TV set that could not be used without an aerial, which we didn't have) We enjoyed family movie nights each Friday too. We would happily cuddle up together, with pillows and covers and some popcorn, while we watched a succession of video shop golden oldies like, 'Seven Brides for Seven Brothers', and 'Mary Poppins'. Good times :)
The major difficulties in not having a television were having to explain to Social Science and English teachers that our child hadn't done their homework because they didn't have access to the news or other shows, and the children feeling left out of the inevitable, 'did you see what happened on (a particular) TV show last night!?' We managed :)
Five thoughts on living without a TV:
1. Television is a doorway through which the world pours in: the good, the bad and the ugly - and amazingly, we accept most of it into our lives without much question. When we had been without a TV for some years we happened to be at a friend's home while their TV was on and an underwear Ad came on. Shapely girls wearing briefs and bras ran screaming down some stairs and I was a bit taken aback. It struck me that if I were to open our front door and have half-clad girls run through our house I would be a little outraged and my husband would be appalled! Yet because it's on television we accept it? Would we really sit down and get comfortable to watch a couple getting naked together in real life, or watch someone in the shower or on the toilet? Yet because it's on TV, it's ok? We seem to unconsciously give up or relax our own standards when we mindlessly accept the standards someone else chooses for us. I don't like the feeling of passing over my choices to others. I want to consciously and carefully choose what to welcome into our home. I want to live with integrity, which for me has meant rejecting a lot of what television has had on offer, because it's not in line with what I want to have in my life or in my family.
2. In an article you can read here, one researcher recorded: "It's sort of counter-intuitive, because people think their kids would drive them nuts without TV.. But parents found that kids became very good at entertaining themselves and didn't need to be entertained all the time by something that was lively and active. They didn’t complain about being bored." I found this too. Our children used to play together very happily for the most part, and rarely complained of being bored. I'm pretty sure that our children grew up happier, closer, and emotionally healthier because they didn't watch TV. I can't know for sure, but that's how it seemed to us. I believe our family was better without television.
3. I know you can choose your programs, but you cannot choose the Ads, and some of them are doosies! I remember seeing one Ad where a little girl happily cleaned her teeth for ages (great toothpaste, apparently), while her brother angrily banged on the bathroom door wanting to get in. No sex or murder involved, but these two were not behaving in a way that I wanted our children to behave. I didn't need anyone to be giving our children lessons in rudeness and selfishness.
4. We had television for a limited period a couple of times over the years. (eg On a six-month contract when the Australian Olympics were on.) So we knew what it was like to have it and to not have it. Occasionally we asked all the children together what they thought about us getting it? (Mind you, we told them we weren't a democracy and their votes didn't necessarily count; we were just interested) Of the nine of us, only one son ever voted to have TV. He loved sports, and he wanted to be able to talk to his friends about the latest shows. But all the rest of the family felt themselves to be happier without it.
5. Television viewing for many people is probably their activity of choice between about 7pm and 10pm most nights. That's about 15 - 21 hours a week. What else could we be doing with all that time? We could write a book, learn to paint, train for a marathon, learn ballroom dancing, spend more real time with our children and husbands/wives.. We could get on top of the ironing pile, clean out all of our drawers, volunteer somewhere, invent something, sew a quilt, have friends over, study, compose music, take a wood-working course... And when we do sit down to watch a show we have chosen, a whole 20 minutes out of every 60 minutes is taken with Ads! Don't we resent that?! ( I resent that! :)
I could probably go on and on but you get the idea. You can find more to read of interest about the topic from what other people have written here and here. But in summary:
It's a choice. There are many good reasons to have TV, and to sometimes not have TV. I'm not trying to change people's TV habits; it doesn't bother me what other people do. My point is just that we ought to consider that we have options... Although it's the norm, we don't have to have a TV if we decide we'd be better without :) Worth thinking about?