Help me mold our no tv life
May 3, 2010 8:58 PM   Subscribe

I think I'm ready, I've done the research but I need support. Especially of the people who have done it before me. Will you give me Your best Tip and trick? I have young chIldren and they are going to be ....very troubled.

We are giving up tv. Not internet where they can thumb through mind numbing shows all day but we are qtaking away the freedom to just vedge for hours. Tips, tricks,rewards,ideas would be greatly appreciately. Our children are 10 and 3. Not opposed to parent Les movie or shows watched together and no more violence and mindless drift. Leave your suggestions here or mi mail. Thanks all!
posted by pearlybob to Media & Arts (30 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Just unplug it! We've been t.v.-free for over 25 years now. We do rent movies and we do a lot of interneting, but no t.v., no cable, no satellite, nothing. Each of our 2 children, aged 4 and 11 when we pulled the plug, went on to be great readers, writers, valedictorian and salutatorian, respectively, of their senior high school classes and are happy, healthy, gainfully employed grown-ups now.
posted by Lynsey at 9:02 PM on May 3, 2010

We did this about 2 years ago. No tips or tricks are really necessary. Our kid (4 at the time) was versatile enough to switch seamlessly to books. She is now an avid reader, and we give her the occasional movie night (via computer) as a reward for good behavior at school.

The living room sure looks a lot bigger without the TV.
posted by aberrant at 9:02 PM on May 3, 2010

That was supposed to be parent LED movie
or show. Sorry!
posted by pearlybob at 9:03 PM on May 3, 2010

We're a relatively TV-lite family here. We don't have cable and I'm really the only one in the house who watches any network TV, but we do watch a lot of stuff together - Deadliest Catch, Mythbusters, our son (almost 9) and his father adore Three Stooges. We also watch a lot of movies together. We also have kind of an unwritten rule that the TV's on only if you're planning to watch something specific.

The rest of the time, when we want background noise (getting ready for work/school, during meals), we listen to music. We had a Sirius subscription for a while, but now just plug one of our iPods into our stereo dock.
posted by Lucinda at 9:21 PM on May 3, 2010

My dad used to take the Sunday TV listings and highlight what he wanted to watch, then for the rest of the week he pretty much only turned the TV on for what he'd already picked out. You might try implementing something like that for your kids, giving them a certain number of hours they can choose to watch, but with restrictions (must be selected in advance, certain shows/channels/hours are off limits, the TV goes OFF when the show is over, etc)

You'll find that it's much easier to get into the habit than you'd think. When you're not watching TV, you're not watching the promos for all the other stuff that's on TV, so you literally don't know what you're missing.
posted by stefanie at 9:25 PM on May 3, 2010

Just do it! Get out and do things! Think of it and present it as: now we have time for all the fun stuff in the world!
posted by kch at 9:32 PM on May 3, 2010

Do they have a lot of friends? Are their friends avid TV/movie watchers? Television provides (whatever value you give it, net positive, negative, neutral) a common experience that contributes to social bonding.

That, I think, will be the crux of the matter regardless of whether your children, themselves, can adapt to non-TV/movies.

Although I watch a lot of movies* and watch select TV shows (via, er, Rule #1, you do not talk about____), but a lot (vast majority) of my coworkers/co-grad-students are avid TV watchers and whenever the conversation turns to Iron Chef, or Lost, or The Wire, or whatever (and there are lots more)... I find myself fading from conversation. To a much younger me (surrounded by much younger friends and acquaintances), this would have posed a somewhat serious situation.

Do your kids currently have one or two favourite shows that they are "still allowed to watch," say, downloaded from youtube/hulu/DVR-from-a-friend/at-a-friend's-house or from "Rule #1" ?

*both "mainstream" and which my social peers have no interest in
posted by porpoise at 9:34 PM on May 3, 2010 [1 favorite]

Will you have Internet access? If so get a Roku with Netflix. Then cancel cable. You can still get over the air TV if you need it. With Roku you are in more control and can select what and when you watch.
posted by fifilaru at 9:36 PM on May 3, 2010

Several years ago I went from someone who watched hours of tv a day to someone who watched none, and the most surprising thing about the transition was how little I missed it. I excepted it to be awful -- I had to give up cable b/c of tight funds and no network reception to speak of, so it wasn't even voluntary. But once watching wasn't a possibility, I didn't even think of it anymore. I read and drew and took walks and cleaned and...whatever (this was before I had a computer :-)) and was shocked by just how long a day really can be (in a good way) and how much you can do in it. So: just get rid of it! all at once -- no tricks necessary. I think you'll and your children will adjust a lot more easily than you think.
posted by frobozz at 9:38 PM on May 3, 2010

Put the tv in the attic or basement. Put a bookshelf in its place. Fill it with books, board games, paper and markers, craft supplies. Done. The TV can come out for like, really super important events; presidential debates, for example. After awhile you might just get rid of it altogether.

To explain it to your kids, I'd explain that it's not a punishment, it's because you as parents want to also get out and do more and you feel like you're all watching too much TV. Make it clear that they're not being punished. That might really, really help.

Rules like "one show a week" or "pick what you want to watch ahead of time" aren't a good idea and aren't really what you're asking for -- you'll all just go back to your tv-watching ways, most likely. Just get rid of the box. Storing it somewhere in the house might make the decision feel "less final" especially for your kids.
posted by k8lin at 9:38 PM on May 3, 2010 [1 favorite]

I grew up in a TV-free home, and I think I turned out OK.

Mom used to host movie night at least once a week and I used to look forward to the nights when all three of us would snuggle on the couch in our pjs, eating popcorn. (Mom went so far as to rid the entire house of TVs and TV related products... this meant that we also had to "rent" a TV and VCR from the video store once a week. Not the most budget-friendly plan. Rather than rid the entire house of the unit, perhaps you might stash the TV in your closet).

Speaking of TVs in closets, this leads me to my second point... don't be alarmed if your kids retaliate when they're older. My sister and I smuggled a 12-inch black and white TV set that someone had abandoned at the local recycle centre (I think I was about 12 or 13 at the time). We set that puppy up in our walk-in closet and took turns watching grainy shows and standing guard for sounds of mom coming to our bedroom.

Come to think of it, I guess if watching Days of our Lives reruns was my form of teenage rebellion, mom did pretty good. Or maybe she just set me up...
posted by Cat Face at 9:47 PM on May 3, 2010

Heed the full-on cold turkey advice, and be sure to include streaming video in your cold turkeyness--it is just as easy for a kid (or adult) to vege for hours in front of an internet-connected computer. We have no tv in our house, but the content on the web is no different from any you get with cable or over-the-air tv, and the ads sometimes more insidiously ubiquitous. I particularly have little love for Disneychannel dot com and am trying to figure out how to extricate my 8 year old from its snarky throes.
posted by gubenuj at 9:56 PM on May 3, 2010

do it. i grew up in a no-tv household and i am better for it. my parents did the right thing. cold turkey makes for some funny stories. keep an eye on the high school years because tv is a drug....for sure....
posted by lakersfan1222 at 10:17 PM on May 3, 2010

My kid isn't old enough yet that it's an issue, so I don't have any personal advice, but Science-based Parenting had a post a little while back about taking away the TV. It turns out that it wasn't as difficult as he thought it would be. I found it helpful.
posted by lexicakes at 10:20 PM on May 3, 2010 [1 favorite]

Replace with lots of entertaining books.
posted by Jacqueline at 10:27 PM on May 3, 2010

when I went tv-free, I replaced it with a projector, because I love watching movies. when you have the image filling a whole wall, it becomes more of an Event. with a projector, you can rent dvds or download movies or tv shows, but you can plan what you want to watch, instead of just flipping on whatever. Also, they take up so much less space in your living room, so you don't end up having all the furniture facing the same way. It might be easier to get your kids excited about getting rid of the tv if you replace it with something better.
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 10:48 PM on May 3, 2010

Just do it. My parents gave up the tv when I was maybe six.

As others have stated above, there might be a problem with friends and in school because your kids didn't watch a particular show. They might also want to visit friends with a tv more often now because they want to watch tv there. All manageable problems.
posted by Glow Bucket at 11:53 PM on May 3, 2010

There's a Berenstain Bears book, Berenstain Bears and Too Much TV, that might be helpful (they have a no tv week that leads to less tv in general). I recommend plenty of trips to the library and lots of outside time.
posted by sleeping bear at 1:24 AM on May 4, 2010

Good for you! I did this with my kids years ago. Just unplugged it. The first few days were tricky only because it was a disruption in their routine, but after that, absolutely no big deal.

But I do want to chime in, that especially for the 10 year old, kids do unfortunately spend a fair amount of time chit chatting about the zany antics of Hannah Montana or the Wizards of Waverly Place (or Phineas and Ferb or whomever), and it's not always terrific to be THAT kid who has no knowledge of pop culture.
posted by dzaz at 2:59 AM on May 4, 2010

What are your reasons for giving up TV - more time, or different things for your kids to do?

This might be a bit of a UK-centric answer, but over here the major channels all have internet catch-up for shows. I know a lot of people who don't have a TV, either because of space or because of the cost of the license fee, and they do fine this way.

However, we're not kids, and Glow_bucket above has a point - as a child I remember TV being a big discussion point with friends. If you're able to get the major shows online, this shouldn't be an issue.
posted by mippy at 3:38 AM on May 4, 2010

i grew up in a no-tv household and i am better for it.

Me too. I can't say anything about taking it away from the 10 year old, but the 3 year old will be just fine.

On second thought I will say something about the older kid - I took TV away from myself last year, granted I'm an adult but I'm surprised at how infrequently I even notice that it's not there. Between the Internet and Netflix and occasional TV at other people's houses and the million other things there are to do in a day, I really almost never miss the thing. And 10 year olds seem like very busy people these days, so there's a good chance yours won't miss it either.
posted by DestinationUnknown at 4:01 AM on May 4, 2010

I've been TV-free since moving out of my parent's house. And when I lived there ... I didn't watch TV either. The TV, growing up, was for Documentaries and Open Learning university programs (which were a little challenging to understand as a child, I must say). About the only thing I miss watching is certain parts of the Olympic and Commonwealth games.

I don't think there's a gap in my life. Sure, my peers talked about shows on TV, and still do. I still smile, nod, and say 'that's nice' the same as I do for any interest that I don't share and know nothing about.
posted by ysabet at 4:03 AM on May 4, 2010

We replaced our TV time with podcasts. A good activity might be to have each of your kids choose his or her own podcasts to subscribe to and the whole family can listen while doing something like playing cards, working on a puzzle, cooking dinner, etc.
posted by Shebear at 4:37 AM on May 4, 2010

This might be of interest. It's a documentary about what happened when TVs and electronics were temporarily taken away from volunteer families with children at primary school. The volunteer parents had a harder time than their children because they had to do more parenting stuff and were missing the telly. The kiddies were fine.
posted by mkdirusername at 4:38 AM on May 4, 2010

I have disconnected the broadcast tv feed at home but still have tv and a DVD player, though have gone tv-less for periods of over a year. We did have TV when I was a kid and I probably watched more than was good for me, including a lot of crap, however, one of the things that the BBC was good for when I grew up was regular broadcasting of new and older films, meaning I grew up with an appreciation of about 50 years of cinema, plus picking up some classic drama and comedy. While getting rid of the tv stream might be a good thing do please consider how you might allow access to watchable art, keep the TV, build a decent library of DVDs, if you can afford it allow the kids to have netflix or equivalent accounts, or perhaps take them to the local library regularly and allow 1 rental per visit, either their own choice, perhaps with added parental approval? (Choosing books at the same time?)
posted by biffa at 5:26 AM on May 4, 2010

Be prepared for lots of "I'm bored," especially from the 10 year old, as s/he gets used to having to find other ways to fill the hours. Have activities ready, especially ones you can do with the children.
posted by ook at 7:15 AM on May 4, 2010

(We're a netflix-and-internet family, which feels like a good compromise between being completely cut off from popular culture on the one hand, or vegged-out channel surfers on the other.)
posted by ook at 7:18 AM on May 4, 2010

Be prepared for lots of "I'm bored,"

I came in to say that, but don't just be prepared to hear it, be prepared to counteract it. Have some ideas of projects/games/outings/etc. to replace the TV time, especially at first. Even if you could expect a 10-year-old to suddenly be able to entertain him/herself for those hours, you should also be thinking of the extra time to be a family together and what you want that to mean.

Think of something to work on as a family that will really accomplish something - build a playhouse in the backyard; collect different types of bugs on a posterboard; plant a garden; visit every local restaurant in your town - research and put the list on a poster or in a notebook, then visit one each week for the next year and add a review afterward; make ice cream with a hand crank freezer; invite their friends for a mystery/scavenger hunt evening; start a family band/orchestra and you all take lessons; organize some cooking lessons for the older kid where each week you either teach an old family favorite or you look up something new that you all learn together - make fudge or lollipops.

For the reading idea - if they don't just take to it, start a family reading club: weekly time for everyone to read; read aloud to each other; prizes for finishing books; older kid to read aloud to younger one.
posted by CathyG at 8:50 AM on May 4, 2010

In my entire 31 years, I've never had a TV, nor do I watch movies. My siblings and I were/are avid readers, even as kids. We kept up on news & politics via the radio & newspaper. And really, I don't think that we missed out on bonding or whatever with our friends because we didn't have a TV. To hear our friends talk about shows/movies we'd never seen didn't bother us and most conversations pretty quickly turned to other topics so we didn't feel left out or disconnected.

Also, I think that because we were such avid readers, our vocabularies, reasoning skills, thinking skills, etc. were broadened and expanded because we didn't sit mindlessly for hours, sort of paying attention to what was happening on the screen. Yes, I do understand there are educational shows on TV, but as a kid, I'd have watched the brain-mush-inducing shows.
posted by TurquoiseZebra at 9:48 AM on May 4, 2010

I had a friend when I was around 10 whose parents offered him $200 if he didn't watch TV for a year. At 10 years old, that sounded like loads of money, I think I even offered it up to my parents but never went through with it.

Because this was part of a deal with his parents that he was responsible for, he didn't even go over to friend's houses just to watch TV, he had given his word.

If I remember correctly, after a year he didn't really feel like watching tons of TV.
posted by dripdripdrop at 9:58 AM on May 4, 2010

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