My favourite part is when I tell people we don’t watch TV and they can’t believe it!
We haven’t been watching TV for over 6 years now. I remember I used to come back from office and park myself in front of the TV with a cup of tea. I would watch programs after programs but always have that empty feeling of non-productivity. I would lament about not having enough time to do any of the things I loved. I loved reading but I wasn’t reading enough. In fact, both of us used to come back from office and watch useless programs for hours. We needed to change something.
We decided we had to get rid of the TV (I mean the connection). And we have never regretted that decision. What also sealed the deal was having a baby. I didn’t want an onslaught of cartoon shows to make all our lives miserable. And it was one of the best decisions of my life.
Advantages of not watching TV
Couple time: When we stopped watching TV, we would play board games and have tea together. We would chat for long hours about our work, life, goals, etc. Time slows down when you are not watching TV.
No Boredom: It’s true. I have observed that kids who watch TV are easily bored otherwise. The reason is that TV offers a different kind of stimulation which cannot be matched by anything else like reading books or playing board games. I have never heard my 5 year old say he is bored. He always finds ways to entertain himself. He will write, create some variations of the games or read, or ask us to play with him.
Creative pursuits: When you are not sprawled in front of the TV in all your free time, you feel the energy and inclination to pursue your creativity. My husband keeps surprising me with his creativity – from a World Map on one of the Walls to a wooden book box for our son; from a little reading table for him to learning to make several Indian sweets like Kaju katli, Gulab Jamun, Boondi Laddoo and so many more things; he has been amazingly prolific.
Freedom from Advertisements: More than the programs, I am wary about the ads. Our son neither knows Chhota Bheem or Doremon, nor does he know KinderJoy. I am neither pestered for fancy merchandise of popular characters, nor for the latest chocolates or wafers or theme parties. TV is full of misleading messages like when you add certain powder to your milk, you will be stronger; when you eat certain noodles or cornflakes, you will be healthier. Actually, in a lot of ads kids are shown making faces at healthy food and milk, which influence kids in a wrong way. I do not add anything to my son’s milk, not even sugar. He loves it. And we eat healthy breakfast.
Freedom from Unnecessary messages: Since my son is at an impressionable age right now, I am uncomfortable with a lot of things that is shown on the TV. He does not have the experience or maturity to differentiate between real and make-believe. There are issues like gender stereotyping, violence, crime and poor self-image. Even music channels are no good. The less said the better about the lyrics and obscenity.
No dependence on TV: I was always clear that my son will never eat his food while watching TV no matter how much of an effort that may be. It’s easy to feed little kids while showing cartoons but I have seen what a vicious circle that is. I never fell prey to that situation. Also, you pay more attention to your food when you are not eating while watching TV.
Bonding with kids: The only thing kids really need is bonding time with parents, everything else is secondary. When there’s no TV, you play with your child, you talk to him, you bond. You have the opportunities to connect. You can’t expect kids to answer abstract questions like ‘how was your day?’ You need to sit with him, ask him ten different kinds of things to actually know how his day had been.
Freedom from Screen time worries: From 0-2 years of age, kids should have zero screen time; and after that, not more than 30-60 minutes. But that rarely happens in reality. I’m free of such worries. Sometimes we let him watch animated movies but that’s about it. And that also goes for laptops, computers, mobiles or tablets. With no screens around, we don’t have those daily power struggles.
Stimulating discussions: Our bedtime discussions are about galaxies and planets, instead of daily soaps.
Peaceful Mornings: Our mornings never start with blaring sounds of music channels or news channels. We exercise or have tea or chat or read newspaper.
Saves money: We still have our old CRT. We neither graduated to LCD, nor do we have any intentions of getting an LED TV. Technology becomes obsolete very frequently. I’m glad we are not shelling out money every two years to upgrade; and add to that the money saved for DTH services.
None so far. Yes, our parents sometimes threaten that they would not visit. But on a serious note, I am yet to find any disadvantage.
Here are a few perceived advantages of watching TV:
Educational and Informative: Some people say that kids learn a lot when they watch educational programs on TV. If you can control their TV viewing, it’s great. I didn’t want that headache and unnecessary power struggles. I also do not believe that they learn more from TV, they learn far more from reading, playing and doing things.
Feeling left out: Also called peer pressure. Personally, I’m quite happy in my ignorance. We also get the argument that kids might feel peer pressure when they grow up and they might feel left out. I would never stress out about a hypothetical situation. I will cross the bridge when I come to it.
News & latest updates: With internet, you get all the news anyways. It is like checking email 10 times in a day. It is really not required. You can check and respond to emails even twice. It is a myth that we need to be connected all the time. It actually makes you less productive.
One of the major reasons for moving to a TV-free life was to set an example for the little one. You need to practice what you preach. Moreover, if there is anything you really need to watch, there is always the internet.
And honestly, it isn’t as bad as it sounds. You do not miss something that you never experienced. We CHOSE to give up TV, while our son NEVER experienced having a TV at home. THIS is the life he has always known. Our lives do not revolve around TV programs neither do they fill our silences. Boredom is a boon for creativity and imagination.
So, if you are planning to go TV-free; I will say, go for it. It’s truly life-changing. There’s so much to do in life, why live vicariously!