Friday, July 5, 2013

How To Kill Your TV

Found on a wall in Glasgow, Scotland. 
Photo taken by Brian Aslak Gylte from Norway
Earlier this week I posted Why You Should Kill Your TV. I realize I may have come across as a bit extreme. We have some wonderful friends/neighbors who don't allow their kids to watch any TV at all. Ever. Not even when they are sick. No movies, no shows, no computers. And they are some of the loveliest children I know with huge imaginations and maybe, just maybe, some of that has to do with not watching TV. (Although the TV thing is just one small part of their upbringing.) I think about this sometimes.

I tend to be somewhat more moderate and Mr. Chanclas and I decided that very limited, purposeful TV is okay for our family as long as it isn't becoming a problem for anyone. I detest the idea of leaving the TV on as "background noise" or channel-surfing "just to see what's on". I have never found anything good on TV while channel surfing. And TVs left on as background noise are terrible conversation-killers. The benefit to only watching TV shows on your computer through Netflix or Hulu or whatever is that you will tend to be more purposeful about your viewing. Purposeful is good!

What I'm struggling to say here is that TV rules and habits are different for everyone but I think it benefits us all to ask ourselves, "Is this working for me? Is it working for my family? Is TV getting in the way of other parts of my life?" And if you decide that it is, indeed, getting in the way, let's look at ways you can kill your TV (or at least use it differently). I advocate a slow wean more than sudden death.

1) Make the TV inconvenient
Several years ago, when Big Sister was four and Brother was a little baby, we decided to move our TV out of a central place in our home. Like most people, we had a TV in the living room and all of the living room furniture was arranged around it. At the time we had an attached two-car garage that we never used for our cars so we put the TV in the garage. We had an old futon out there already that had been waiting to go to Goodwill so that became the TV couch. The garage was unheated and uncooled so it really made you think twice about whether a show was worth watching in the 95 degree heat or the 40 degree cold.

The kids looked like this while watching a movie in the winter time.
Making the TV inconvenient was a major step in showing us that we didn't really need the TV. After a year or two of the garage setup we sold the TV at a garage sale.

2) Cancel the cable/dish/whatever
Another way to make the TV less appealing and to save a huge amount of money is to cancel cable TV subscriptions. If you are hooked on a particular show this can sound pretty unpleasant but really, in this day and age you can get most shows online or on DVD from the library. Once you have unplugged from the cable you only have network TV left and who wants to watch that? Now you are using your computer to watch shows/movies and you're probably doing it in a more purposeful way.

After you have made your TV inconvenient and cancelled the cable you have made your TV obsolete. You can get rid of it. Sell it on Craigslist. Donate it to charity. Give it to your grandmother. Trade it for something interesting. And think about what you can do with your new free time!

Anybody else have stories about how they killed their TV? Do you miss it? Did you gain something from it? What changed?


  1. Wow. Okay. I'm gonna catch hell for this. Here I go.

    I LOVE TV. I do. So does my H. So does my tot.

    Here's the problem. We only love GOOD TV - and that is hard to come by.

    We are movie freaks. We hate commercials. We categorically and unequivocally HATE reality TV. We love thinky and edgy (read: raw) shows, documentaries and movies.

    Enter - pay movie channels. At this point, it's come down to PBS, HBO and Showtime, and Root sports (we are Mariners fanatics).

    I love TV. I love thoughtful TV. I love watching my kid spend a whole day making up stories with her animals because she has time b/c the tv is OFF. I loves me some True Blood, and Game of Thrones and The Newsroom and, get it.

    We won't ever give it up. We will turn it off all the time, only record and watch what we want and won't spend time watching network television, but it's gonna stay around...

    Which doesn't mean every month when I pay the cable bill that I don't say out loud "we seriously gotta get rid of comcast" - the H nods in agreement and then we start watching Nurse Jackie.

    But I dig other people who don't use their tv's! I love that there's room for everyone to do their own stuff! I also love a giant bowl of popcorn and 7 innings of Felix Hernandez on the mound....:-)

    1. If you catch hell for it it won't be from me! I think the key thing is to be purposeful and deliberate about what we watch. And like Rita says below, I do think it is something that is and should be different for each family (and maybe each person within the family). TV is such a big topic to cover and I worry I was too simplistic about it in my posts. It's given me some good food for thought, though.

    2. Can I just say that my respect meter just went up a ton for you once I saw you bundle up your children in HATS and a DOWN BLANKET to watch tv!?! That is CLASSIC!

      And I don't think you were too simplistic at all. Remember Occam's razor? - Sometimes, the simplest answer is the truest one of all. (Of course paraphrasing dramatically.)


  2. We love our extremely minimal show watching. We've never moved the big TV here from the park (it's sitting unplugged in Don's apartment). We've also never had cable and only watched Netfilx or DVD's - something that's continuing on the computer.

  3. I think this is a hugely important--and extremely hard to answer--question. And it extends to all screens, not just TV screens. Two years ago, when my partner and I merged our families, we crafted an extended screen time manifesto:

    I still agree with the thoughts we expressed about the value of screens and the need to have a lot of conversation with kids about them. Our action plan was a little idealistic. And, our kids are older, and things have shifted. (My twins are 15 and his daughter is 12.) What we've realized is that we need a different approach for each kid. We allow my daughter to make her own decisions--because she's shown that she's mature enough to do so. She has an occasional screen orgy (with crap I don't like much), but it's only occasional because she has so little time for screens. She volunteers, she's involved in school activities, she's an honors student. One of the other kids is on a plan in which screen time minutes are earned by doing activities that we feel have more value, and the other one is on a time-of-day plan (no screens after a certain time in the morning or before a certain time at night). We all turn off screens when the household goes to bed.

    What I've really learned (through a lot of trial and error) is that there is no one right solution--not even within the same family! We worried that our kids would balk at different rules for different kids, but I think because we'd had so many discussions about the topic, they were able to see the reasoning behind our different approaches.

    1. I think it's really neat that you guys came up with different rules for different kids. I think parents often feel like they must treat all of their children exactly the same. What we sometimes don't realize is that each child is different and has different needs and so our treatment of them *should* be different. Equal love doesn't have to mean exactly equal treatment.

      I'm sure our TV/screen routine will change as my kids get older. Right now we only have one screen and my kids are young so it is easier to manage.


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