How Much Influence Should We Let TV Have in Our Homes?

Written by Courtney, Contributing Writer

About five years ago, I decided to give up television. It wasn’t a New Year’s resolution. It wasn’t even that watching TV was a problem spot for me. It wasn’t an addiction as it can so easily become. I just decided that my time would be better spent elsewhere and that the time I did spend watching TV, although little, was time wasted.

I also felt a television was a distraction in the living room. I like my living room to be welcoming and inviting, a cozy room in which family members and guests alike can feel comfortable and connect easily. A TV in the corner, or even worse as a centerpiece in the room, is a major distraction and takes away that personal interaction and replaces it with something generic.

So, we moved the TV to the basement where we could still gather as a family and watch movies together. Having it out of sight truly did keep it off our minds. This arrangement worked wonderfully in our old home and where we live today.

However, about two months ago, I decided to bring the TV up from the basement to the living room. My family thought I was crazy, but my reasoning was that it would be a more comfortable area to watch movies and we would be able to view homeschool videos (instructional lessons as well as documentaries and informational videos) more conveniently.

I quickly realized how easy it is to allow the television to become a distraction. Now, we don’t have cable, so our viewing is limited, but I still found that after about a week, I had inadvertently allowed television to sneak into our daily routine. We came to enjoy sitting down as a family and watching certain shows, which can be fine in moderation, but it was starting to become an issue.

After a month or so of enjoying the convenience and entertainment of the TV in our living room, I decided to send it back downstairs….and I have no regrets! In fact, the minute it went downstairs, I breathed a sigh of relief and instantly felt a sense of peace about the room.

It’s been a few weeks and I haven’t watched a minute of TV since. My schedule has been redeemed and my living room instantly returned to a place of interaction instead of distraction.

Am I suggesting that everyone should move the TV from the living room? No, I’m not. For one, it may be that I wasn’t disciplined enough to avoid the traps of the TV. And secondly, not everyone has a family room or basement area where they can set up a TV area. (I do believe that watching videos together can be a great family night option, despite the garbage on television.) Furthermore, there are options to “hide” the TV and still have that serene atmosphere in which the TV doesn’t become the focal point or the default activity.

What I have learned from this is that a small change like removing the TV from the main room in the house can have a big impact on family life! It’s a minor decision that you only have to think about once instead of one that has to be made on a daily basis or a battle regularly fought.  

Back To God

Television, though not entirely evil, is made up of mostly junk content. As parents, we work hard to instill godly character within the hearts of our children and teach them about the world from a Biblical worldview. Our efforts go against the grain of the culture, and likewise TV.

Television also teaches our children values and character. Unfortunately, we will have to work even harder to undo what is learned from it. It may be something seemingly innocent like the children’s show Dinosaur Train, for example, which relies on faulty science to present history based on evolution. It may be sitcoms or reality shows where wives disrespect and emasculate husbands, children dishonor their parents and value friendships above family, and young girls dress as sex symbols and are rewarded for doing so.

I’m not suggesting we try to shelter our children from all the negative influences in the world. That would be a daunting task, and doing so would not be in their best interest. Our children need to be aware of sin in order to grasp the concept of God’s saving grace. But as parents, it is our responsibility to guard them against the sin of the world, and not seeing it exalted and praised on TV will go a long way in our efforts.

Back to Our Families
Though television can bring us together on occasion, it typically separates the family. Most of what’s on TV today is age-segregated. Wholesome shows geared toward the whole family, like the Little House on the Prairie series of the past, are virtually nonexistent today. It seems shows now are targeted to specific age groups and content “age-appropriate”, pushing the limits as far as possible according to the material allowed for the specific age group.

While viewing a show together can be a fun family activity, and at times even a learning experience, this most often is not the case. During our great TV experience, we enjoyed watching many of the shows on the Create network as a family. One of our favorites was America’s Test Kitchen. We learned quite a bit from that show! It even took us from the couch to the kitchen as we worked as a family preparing the dishes we saw and science we learned about on the show.

I hope to sit down with my family and watch more of these episodes in the future. But for now, I’m enjoying being TV-free!  An in the meantime, we’re enjoying the America’s Test Kitchen Cookbook my mom got us for Christmas.

Back to a Simpler Time

Without the television as an option, we have to come up with other things to do. Since TV was not a part of our family life for so many years, we were able to learn to come together as a family and do things that were both enjoyable and allowed us to connect relationally.

I noticed that we went outside less, played fewer board games, and even read less during that month or so of having the TV in our living room.

What else comes with television viewing? Envy. Greed, Discontent. Sure, “I have learned in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content” (Phil 4:11) and TV didn’t change me during that time, but I did see how it could have the power to have a great influence over me given enough time. I saw it begin to stir within the hearts of my young children a desire for more “stuff”. And it wasn’t just the commercials that planted those “wants” within us, but even shows that create envy or discontent by conveying the “Better Homes an Gardens look” as normal.

By avoiding the lure of all the flashy trends and the temptation to get all the popular convenience gadgets, we learn to be creative and get by with what we have. We learn that it takes work to reach our goals. And we come together as a family in doing so, learning and doing life together.

If the TV has a grip on your life or a hold on your family, I hope to challenge you to minimize this distraction and to gain in return more time to invest in relationships, with God, family, friends, people, and a return to a more simple life.

 **Note from Becky: I appreciate Courtney's transparency on the issue of television and the family. Her post definitely gave me some things to think, Dinosaur Train. I'm sad to say that I never took the time to evaluate it before letting our kids watch it. This post is a great reminder to me to be more vigilant about evaluating the amount of influence we will allow into our home through the TV (although we don't "watch" TV in our home, we do have Netflix and plenty still needs to be evaluated on there!). Thanks for sharing, Courtney!!
About Courtney

Courtney blogs at Simply Nurtured, where she shares her passion for laying a strong foundation for baby and sells products that help mothers to do so.
Courtney is married to her best friend and is a homeschooling mom to 5 children, and she and her husband are expecting their 6th blessing in April.

Courtney is reminded daily of God's amazing grace and tries to not take one moment for granted. She strives to live simply in order to follow Christ fully and experience joy abundantly. When she is able to, she loves to spend time reading, writing, sewing, painting, doing crafty projects, and planning and organizing projects.


Anonymous said...

To be honest, my family used to watch alot of TV. We would sit all evening with the TV on and that was our everyday life. I finally had a talk with my husband and asked him if this was really how we wanted to raise our daughter? Using electronics to entertain ourselves instead of getting active and connecting as a family? We decided the TV would be on only 1 hour per day. Believe me, this was not an easy change. I heard grumbling about not being able to watch a "favorite show" for a few days, but now we seem closer and happire, playing a board game, reading, crafting, cooking, all things that have brought us closer. Now even my tween daughter will say "Shut off the TV, I like the quiet".

Courtney said...

That's great that you made the decision (and had the discipline) to make those changes! It definitely frees you up to do things that bring you closer as a family. :)

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