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.
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?