Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Watching Less TV

Six weeks ago, in conjunction with a Bible study I was doing, I made a pledge to reduce my TV time. We were challenged to think of something we could opt out of participating in that the world had to offer. Television was the first thing that came to mind. I used to love TV. I really did. I don't know if television has gotten worse, I've gotten more discriminating, or my time has become more valuable. I think it's probably a combination of all three, but gradually over the last year, my husband and I have been choosing to watch less TV. As favorite shows went off the air, we didn't add new shows to replace them. If there was nothing on that we really wanted to watch, we--gasp--turned off the TV, primarily so that he could prepare for teaching the Youth Group at church (which he had recently taken on, in addition to his full time job).

When thinking about the pledge, I decided to institute a TV Free Day in our home. This was much more of a sacrifice than just eliminating certain shows or reducing the hours for me, because this included Kyle, the toddler with whom I am home all day long. He and Amanda both adjusted fairly well to it, although because he can operate the TV and the DVD player, I had to actually unplug them and tell him they were broken. But with the cord cut and that option removed, he didn't miss it, and happily played or asked me to read books, and I gladly obliged (whereas if he had been happily watching the Wonder Pets or Dora, I would have left him alone while I attended to my other responsibilities or desires). Amanda also easily adjusted to the fact that on this day of the week, turning on the TV was not even an option.

The six week commitment is over, and we have gone forward with it. It is actually becoming a habit. Last week, my husband was gone two nights, and I didn't even turn on the TV once the kids were in bed and I was alone. I took the opportunity to stay on track with my Fall Reading Challenge.

Here's the thing--I don't want to imply that TV is the only timewaster out there. Reading seems more noble, but it's the same idea of escape, and unlike TV, you can't even multitask while reading. If you love TV, keep watching it. I just realized that there were so many other things I'd rather be doing (such as blogging or writing or reading, or getting a chore or two out of the way), but the hypnotic alpha rays lured me into submission when given the chance. Since I'm bad about moderation and self-control, self imposed limits were better for me than just "trying to watch less." Some things that I've been doing:
  • deciding beforehand what I want to watch on a particular day and only turning on the TV to watch those things
  • making certain days TV Free
  • keeping certain evenings or hours of the day reserved for other activities
We do still watch some shows regularly, and I've found another way to better use my TV hours. I watch it in blocks, when I actually want to spend some time watching, as opposed to when the network tells me I should be watching. Yes, I know, Tivo has been around a while, and this is the idea behind it. We Netflix past seasons of 24, and have been enjoying that (Lost may be next). We can watch 4 episodes in about 3 hours (without the excruciating week to week suspense). Because I've watched TV so little lately, I recently figured out that I had missed the beginning of season 2 of Top Chef, which I had been looking forward to. But that's okay. Bravo reruns like crazy, so today I will tape (yes, I don't even have Tivo) the first three episodes and watch them over the weekend. One reason that this is so effective is because once I turn the TV on, I keep it on. It doesn't matter what is on after--an episode that I've seen three times already, or something that I don't care anything about watching. I have little self-control or sense of moderation, so not turning it on at all at certain times keeps me from drifting into hour after hour of mindless TV.

Planning to watch less TV--it Works for Me. Click the banner or the link for lots more ideas to make your life easier or better.


Debs said...

That sounds a good idea - I know once I turn the TV on it's likely to stay on all night. However I think what I also need to think about is how much time I spend reading blogs and stuff on the internet!

Laura said...

Ok, first, you MUST get on the LOST train. :) I rarely advocate any TV show, but my husband and I are totally in love with this show!

Second, we did the renting of the 24 season 1 and it wore us out. :) My husband hopes to never see another clock ticking with that ticking noise again. :) And now, we're so far behind, well, oh well.

We did just get on the Netflix train and I'm lovin' that too!

Ok and to make my comment even longer - to address what you actually wrote about - I started turning the TV off too during the day. I like background noise usually, but I'm learning to keep it less visual (and meaningless) and turn on some good music. Since I've become a stay-at-home mom, I listen to so much less music and I really miss some of the great artists out there!

I'm also doing the same thing with TV at night in that we're only turning it on when there is something on we know we want to watch and keeping it altogether off on some nights. It's been huge for me and my level of peace and organization around our home. And I'm getting a ton more reading done!

Christine said...

We have a TV free day in our house too and the other days the kids are allowed 1 half hour only (maybe an hour on Saturdays). I have stopped watching TV at night for the most part too, instead planning for our homeschool day or blogging. It makes for a much happier household!

Lady Why said...

We disconnected our cable several months ago and I can honestly say it was the best decision we ever made! I am getting so many things done that I never had time for before... it's amazing how much time tv steals from your day! Great post!

lrlwreath said...

Sounds like wise words, and a great example to your kids.

Katrina said...

Great idea. We've cut down our TV watching a lot in recent years and you know what? We haven't really missed it. We'd rather read or play games or just chat.

Lines From The Vine said...

Mary Pride once shared an idea that as shows go off the air, to not replace them with new programs...just cycle yourself away.

We've been doing this for a long time in our home and we don't miss the TV at all. In fact, we get more done, have more family time, spend less on things that we don't need and have a much less negative influence in our home.

Thank you for sharing your ideas.


shells said...

we did the same thing last april for lent, actually sold the tv! my husband finally just bought one of ebay for football season. it has been such a good good thing for our family.
are you by any chance doing the beth moore daniel study??

Amy said...

Jennifer- you are such an inspiration! I love these ideas! I really need to be doing better with this. It is one thing that I truly falter in. You have inspired me to start small and work our way towards some no television goals.

We have TiVo and just watch blocks of shows on the weekend. The work week is too crazy for us to actually sit down and watch anything. I love to read instead and just have some time in the house that is quiet.

BTW- Top Chef is great- looks like it is going to be an interesting season :)

Jaime said...

I hate it when people (especially me) rearrange real-life things for TV. Hello!!

We had a TV free weekend here and it was great. We played Monopoly and read.

In one of the parenting magazines I came across at work the other day, they were talking about things to maximize time with your kids. They talked about some of the same things (watching less, being more discriminate, etc). Their last suggestion was smart though--never watch any show when it's scheduled to be on. TiVo or videotape it so you can skip commercials. That's 20 mins less TV each hour.

joyfuljourney said...

I think we are doing the same Bible study! It is the BEST she's done, so far. Yesterday, during session 2 I thought about giving up some TV time - or Internet time. I know the food thing isn't it. I liked the idea she shared about jewelry - a physical reminder that you are trying to focus on Him - not on what the world offers.

Thanks for the encouragement!

kailani said...

Great idea. I've decided to watch less tv when Girlie Girl is around so she can see there is live beyond the tube. So far, it's been working.

Kathleen Marie said...

I am not a huge TV watcher. With two stations that don't come in well it is not even a temptation. Once is a blue moon I watch things with my hubby or son. I get Netflix and I like that as I pick what I want to watch.

I also like to play board games. My son and I enjoy scrabble, yahtzee and a few other games.

I also like doing crafts and of course reading and blogging/writing.

I like your TV free day for kids. That is an excellent idea.

Donny Pauling said...

While growing up, my parents got rid of our TV one day and didn't replace it for 7 years. I developed a deep love of reading that remains with me to this day.

L.L. Barkat said...

Can you come be The Nanny in my house? :)

Gina said...

We watch 24 the same way, though I never thought of Netflix 'cause friends always seemed to have the dvds. And we have yet to watch season 4 'cause like Laura, we got ticked out and stressed out and it just ate up all our time!

The only shows we really watch are Survivor (my boys LOVE the challenges and LOST) though I'm thinking it wouldn't be too bad to Netflix those as well!

And when my kids watch tv, it's usually videos scheduled into the homeschool day or Pizza movie nights and saturday morning cartoons.

Heidi said...

Yes, that is exactly how I am. If I turn it on, it's hard to turn it off. Most day's around here it doesn't get turned on until I start to make dinner and then I let my toddler watch something I've taped or a DVD.

Thanks for visiting my WFMW! Great tip!

Overwhelmed! said...

What if I respond to blog comments while I watch Battlestar Galactica? Is that bad? :)

Thanks for your comment on my WFMW Grocery Game post! I do appreciate it!

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