Why there’s no TV in our home

Two years ago, I was in a local furniture store. Being the frazzled shopper I am, I bounced from item to item, asking about sofas, end tables, and coffee tables. Finally, the saleswoman stopped me: “First you have to choose your TV console, since that will be the focal point of your living room. Once you know what you want there, you’ll be able to choose nice matching pieces for the rest of the room.”

Sensible advice, but I told her we don’t have a TV. She smiled indulgently. “You mean, you just don’t have one yet.” 

“No, we don’t have a TV. Never have had one, probably never will.”

I do not exaggerate when I say that she didn’t know what to say to me after that. She instantly became awkward, distancing herself from this bizarre species of human that doesn’t have a TV! I left soon after because I hadn’t found anything I liked.

photo: guardian.co.uk

photo: guardian.co.uk

I often think back on that conversation with the shocked woman. Did she seriously not know anyone else without a TV? I know tons of people without them, namely my entire extended family. Don’t get me wrong; I’m not wanting to judge others for having TVs because I understand that TV is a very normal part of society and likely wonderfully useful to many people. The decision between me and my husband not to have one, however, was made consciously for our own reasons, and here’s why:

#1 — I actually really hate TV. Maybe because I was raised without one, I find that my blood pressure rises as soon as I walk into a room with a TV on. I struggle to remain focused on conversation because the TV is so distracting; I’ve never learned to tune it out. I don’t like the white noise in the background; there’s enough noise in my house that I don’t need another source to generate it.

#2 — I don’t like that TV is a window to the outside world that beams its often horrific images straight into the heart of the family home. I’m not even talking about shows — just the news alone, showing accidents, bombings, fires, etc., are not things I want my innocent, impressionable children seeing. Home is meant to be a sacrosanct space. There are years for my kids to discover evil and tragedy; why would I precipitate it for the sake of ‘keeping informed’? As if the news gives an accurate view of world events, anyways. There are much better ways to educate oneself than getting spoon-fed by North American news networks.

We do have internet at home, so one could argue it’s also a window into horrific things — far more, actually — but to me it feels more controllable. My kids are still small, so they don’t use the computer yet. I can pick and choose the articles I want to read, using my discretion, instead of sitting on a couch while a news network makes those decisions for me and flashes the images before I have a chance to turn them off.

#3 — There’s barely enough time in the day to do the necessary things, so I honestly don’t know where I’d find the time to watch TV. Sadly, if there were a TV, I probably would find time, meaning other more useful things would be lost in the process. As for relaxing, TV has the opposite effect on me; it makes me uptight.

#4 — Most of the stuff on TV is crap. Sure, I love my fair share of cheesy, silly, time-wasting entertainment, but definitely in small doses and not outright stupid. I can get my kicks through movies and that’s enough for me.

#5 — When I do let my three-year-old watch an episode of Thomas the Tank Engine or some BBC Planet Earth thing on Youtube, his behaviour afterwards goes down the tank. He has full-blown tantrums, kicking and screaming on the floor for more. Yes, I could let him watch tons of TV so he’d become numbed to it, but that’s not an option.

#6 — It’s extremely important that my kids learn to entertain themselves. They need to read books if they’re bored, go outside and dig holes in the dirt, ride their bikes. So many kids are suffering from what author Richard Louv calls “nature deficit disorder,” so why wouldn’t I try to eliminate potential sources of unhealthiness, both physical and psychological, in our family?

#7 — I believe strongly that becoming numbed to violence is dangerous. I can’t watch horror or violent movies because I’ve never become accustomed to them. The average child has seen 8000 murders on TV by the time he/she finishes elementary school. How can that possibly be considered okay? Although witnessing is different than doing, I believe that watching violence for entertainment can’t help but normalize it to some extent in the minds of impressionable children.

#8 — The American Paediatric Association says that no child under the age of two should have any screen time at all because studies have shown that it does negatively impact a baby’s brain development. (I read that in The Baby Whisperer by Tracy Hogg.)

So, there it is — the reasons why we don’t want a TV in our house. I’m interested to hear some of your thoughts on this. Do you have one or do you not? What sort of role does TV play in the life of your family?

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9 thoughts on “Why there’s no TV in our home

  1. You should differentiate between having “TV” and having “a TV”. I have a big screen TV, Blu-Ray player, XBox 360 and and a 5.1 Audio system. I enjoy watching films and playing games. I don’t have “TV” though as in no cable or satellite mainly because that’s what can seriously eat up your life. Simply watching something because it’s on is where I draw the line. How many people would watch some of these awful reality shows if you actually had to press the play button rather than just sit on the couch and let the TV do everything for you? When you choose exactly what you want to watch when you want to watch it, it’s far more controllable and is just another leisure activity.

    • I’m in the same boat – I own a television set but do not subscribe to any type of programming provider (cable, satellite, etc.). We borrow movies from the library every once in awhile but it’s really not one of our “go-to” activities. We do have a Nintendo Wii console and the kids & I definitely enjoy playing that but we make it a family affair. We play Just Dance until our bodies are exhausted and bellies ache from laughter. There is never a time when it’s a solo activity. All too often in the homes of family & friends I see television watching as an activity that disconnects family members. One person watching what they want in the living room, another watching a different show on another television. Or even if they’re watching the same show side by side, how much interaction do they experience with each other?

      I wholeheartedly agree with your reason #3 and I use this one all the time when I explain why I don’t have not do I want to subscribe to TV programs. I never have enough time to do what I would like/need to get done in a day. If I spent 2 hours an evening watching TV that leaves me with even less time and mush for a brain!

      Even when we watch movies we generally pick a movie version of a book we’ve recently read. For example, we read Anne of Green Gables and then borrowed the movie from the library and it took us 4 sittings over the course of a week to watch it all.

      No TV, for kids or adults, is a great idea!

  2. We have a TV, but we never got cable until recently – and even then it was because:
    a) it was cheaper to get cable for a month or two than to pay the set up fee that applies if we were to get phone and internet but not cable and
    b) I kind of wanted to watch the new years eve special, which I now regret because it was crap.

    New years is over and cable getting cancelled ASAP. The mindless dribble that they’re playing is actually (sadly) worse than it was when I was a kid. It’s actually very disturbing. I was MUCH happier not knowing what Honey Boo Boo was.

    I’ll admit that it’s still nice to cuddle up on the couch and veg once in a while (especially after something like Fran). It is a little hard to do this using a small computer screen – although we did this for several years before splurging on our 40″ LCD TV. Netflix makes so much more sense because we get to watch what we want to, when we want to. Also, the simple act of actually having to choose each thing that we watch prevents us from just sitting down for hours and playing slave to the picture box. Bonuses: no advertisements or reality TV, and they have an entire version that’s kids shows only to keep innocent eyes safe from violence, etc. For $8/month, this is by far the best compromise I’ve found.

  3. Such an interesting post – I can never make up my mind about the telly! I didn’t let our two watch it for their first few years and I totally agree with you about the detrimental effect it has on kids’ behaviour – it is noticeable and all the proof I need that it should be limited. Also, because I can very easily get sucked into rubbish shows that add nothing to my life, I understand what little resistance children must have to its sinister attraction.
    We have free satellite here, but it is rubbish. There is one family channel (from Kuwait) that shows children’s English-speaking programmes for an hour in the afternoon – a real hodge-podge of Japanese cartoons and British shows. My boys do get to watch it for about half an hour after school, once snack and homework are out the way. Then it is off! Like you I can’t stand it on in the background – us redheads must have sensitive hearing.
    The other channels the boys are NOT allowed to touch as the scheduling is crazy – no watershed, so an innocuous children’s film lilke Toy Story may be spliced with adverts showing some violent thriller that’s on straight afterwards. You’re so right about news – I watch Al Jazeera in the mornings in the gym, and sometimes use the internet later – although, despite being a complete newshound for years, I don’t feel the need to keep up AT ALL!
    We do have a media player though and the boys have a vast collection of films to choose from at the weekend. I don’t have a problem with good quality films, and as my parents were film-buffs I know how much it added to my own childhood. I love stories, theatre, watching the performances of excellent actors, directing techniques and old films, so I am happy for the boys to have access to some of the beautiful art that is film. To me that is completely different to tv programmes that have been made simply to hook kids into television, often with some dubious marketing strategy for ‘stuff’ alongside.
    For my husband and I, we will sit down to watch a film at the weekend via the media player again – sometimes we even go wild and have a hot chocolate at the same time! During the week, once we’ve done our yoga we tend to sit down to read. The TV is not a focal point in our living room – it is in a corner, while our sofas face each other so we can chat.
    Phew, my brain is buzzing now…where’s that remote so I can tune out? ;)

  4. We do have one in my household, but it is on only while actually being watched and only for specific shows. Before living with Anthony, actually, I’d viewed TVs as the mechanism by which to watch the rare movies I really love–things like Shrek, Ghost and Philadelphia. I argued that we didn’t need cable at the next place since we hardly ever watch TV, but I didn’t take into account how much Anthony loves watching his cooking shows. He doesn’t actually do much cooking, but he appreciates the artistry of it. So we’ll have cable again, although whatever shows I watch will be on Hulu. Honestly, I’m not even sure about that; for the last few years, most of my TV watching has been on my phone, but now that I’ve changed phones and canceled my subscription, I’m happy just to be reading again.

    I don’t feel TV is innately bad or innately good, or essential. I think this reflects my own childhood. My mom would find a TV, bring it home, and have it for a couple of months before deciding she hated it. She’d ditch the TV and life would go on. It was fine either way for my siblings and me. We always still wanted to go out and play. That’s irrepressible in kids. (Or so I thought?)

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  6. Hello there,
    I couldn’t agree with you more – and good for you. We have no TV in our home and haven’t for years. Our son doesn’t watch TV or use computers (he is 6 and homeschooled) – it was a very conscious decision but also a totally natural one – I could see no value at all in badly-made programmes (we are from the UK, hence spelling) and the content of almost all of them is banal, sensational and without merit. When our son wants to relax, he turns to books – as do we – or plays board games with us. He is better than any child I know at entertaining himself – he can spend hours making up conversations between characters, totally lost in play and oblivious to us. His vocabulary is really extraordinary because of his reading and his interaction with adults who care about speech and words and he reads at an 8-9 year level and writes fluently. I know how TV and computers would have taken so much of that away. When I was growing up in Britain, childhood TV was truly excellent – and our son has seen a few DVDs of programmes I used to watch. Then, stories on TV had a moral point, they were creative and sophisticated. We had a TV programme (Jackanory) where sensible actors sitting in chairs would simply read a book to children – each day for a week or two. Nothing more was needed. The books too were different – and we don’t have any books in the house for our son which we think are silly, or dumbed down – which rules out a lot of modern books – including many recommended by private schools. Most of them are simply not as good as what came before. We love shortened versions of Dickens and Shakespeare (Usborne in the UK provides a wonderful selection of classics just right for younger children). We love A.A. Milne, R.L. Stevenson, Tolkien and the Moomin books. Our favourite of all is Enid Blyton, writing in the 1940s and 50s. She produced an enormous range (over 2000 books, not to mention the most wonderful and erudite nature books for children, plus newsletters, poetry and more) of the most wonderful stories. Blyton wrote incredibly well for boys. Back then, boys were courageous, courteous, resourceful and clever – all her adventure stories reflect these values. The ideals that she promoted were simply good and correct – she valued manners, courage, honesty. Her characters punished or tried to help those who were cruel, bullies, dishonest or mean or who lacked moral courage. Nowadays, schools seem to love to give children books full of children showing disrespect for adults and goodness – ‘Horrid Henry” springs to mind. They are chosen almost certainly because children find them funny and it means the teachers don’t have to work as hard to show children the power of really great books. A real teacher will have no problem convincing a child why the stories of Dickens or plays of Shakespeare are so powerful and exciting and wonderful. Our six year old already knows – and the characters in these stories are part of his world. This is why we homeschool. School can no longer protect our children from the disastrous effects of TV, computers and bad books on their morals, their concentration and their creativity. For us, there is no choice. We really love homeschooling and find it no effort – but we feel frightened that for so many parents, they are forced into a school system which overrides the values by which they are trying to live. Well done for defending your home against the bad out there – and don’t give in and let your standards slip. You don’t have to – and your children will turn out wonderfully as a result. Do email if you ever want to discuss further – ahmad.sameena@gmail.com

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