Ok well technically we have one TV (as seen in the picture), but it hasn’t had any channels since October 2007. We have a DVD player and watch movies from Netflix, but that is it. I remember fondly that September day in 2007 when Steve said “Let’s get rid of our TV.” My first reaction was absolutely no way. After all, I have important things to DVR like The Bachelor and American Idol. The DVR was the best invention because I could fast forward through the commercials and watch what I wanted when I wanted. It was supposed to save time and I would watch less TV. In reality, however, I still stayed up late, usually finding something to watch on all those cable channels. Lily was three at the time and we didn’t yet have Semira. Lily did watch TV, but only Nick Jr. and PBS…stations without commercials (but not without commercialization!). The commercials were advertising the other shows, but not sugary cereals and worthless plastic toys. So I rationalized that things were good. But it was hard to deny that TV was a mindless activity and total waste of time for us all. My biggest issue was that Lily was turning into a beggar even with the supposed lack of commercials. I think this is what made me change my mind and agree that TV must go.
So we did it cold turkey. I canceled the cable and joined Netflix…then waited for my withdrawal symptoms to kick in. At first I watched a fair number of movies as a substitute. But I found out quickly that I needed a longer block of time and I had to actually pay attention to the movie. Then I ran out of interesting movies to watch. So I started doing other things like reading books. Not a magazine, but books and lots of them. Along this journey, I have learned quite a few things. Perhaps even better, it has had some unanticipated, positive side effects.
If you need compelling evidence of the negative effects of commercials on children and the absolutely horrible marketing techniques used to turn your kids into little consumers, please read Juliet Schor’s book Born to Buy: The Commercialized Child and the New Consumer Culture. This book should make you scared, very scared.
- Now for some quick TV stats from online: Children ages 2-5 watch 32 hours of TV per week while 6-11 year olds watch 28 hours. Sixty-eight percent of kids have TVs in their rooms and 63% of families have the TV on during meals or eat in front of it. Kids see an average of 20,000 commercials each year. Seriously??? Now I don’t feel so bad about Lily and Semira watching 5 hours of movies per week.
- Even without TV, my kids still beg for crap at Walmart. I hate to see how bad it would be if they watched commercials all day long.
- Lily and Semira do not understand the concept of a commercial. This was evident last fall while staying at a hotel. One of us turned on the TV and found some cartoon. Soon the cartoon cut to a commercial. It was mass hysteria. What happened to their show? I had to explain.
- I can’t tell you how much more time I have. I wish I had kept a list of all the books I have read in three years. It has to number in the hundreds at this point. I don’t like fiction at all; they are all non-fiction books about things I care about.
- I get way more sleep. I am usually in bed before 9 p.m. and get 8-9 hours of sleep a night. In my 20s, I never went to bed before 11 p.m. because I always had to catch some show. Because of my long commute to work, I was up around 5:30, averaging only 6 or so hours of sleep a night. I was always tired.
- I get asked why I don’t just set some rules to limit TV time with my kids instead of getting rid of it altogether. That’s an easy one. If I am trying to lose weight, I don’t have cupboards full of crap to eat then tell myself to have willpower. By having no TV channels, we rarely have arguments on limits and I am never tempted.
- Since I pay for Internet only through our cable company, I save about $80 a month on our bill (this was what it was three years ago to have some expanded cable package, the DVR box, and HDTV channels). This has added up to some real money - $2,880 in three years. Plus I don’t spend money always buying the latest, greatest electronic device. We had wavering thoughts this summer about getting a flat screen TV to watch movies on. That ended when I did a simple cost benefit analysis about the cost per movie watched if we made such a purchase.
People can live without TV. I am living proof that regular people can reject something so mainstream and still be normal. I don’t live under a rock. I still know what is going on. I don’t feel deprived. Instead, I feel great! I don’t miss TV one bit, which is perhaps the biggest surprise of all! You should try it. You might actually like it.