What is the Television’s Place in Your Home? {Ask Amy}

What is the Television's Place in Your Home? | RaisingArrows.netI had a reader ask me how our family handle’s television in our home.  She wasn’t asking the particular shows we watch, but more our rules and regulations on the television, and whether we even had one.  (and if we ever use it as a babysitter *gasp*!)

It really boils down to what place does the television have in your home?
(and how do you keep it there?)

Below is a brief video explaining our thoughts on television in the home.  (You can subscribe to my YouTube channel HERE.)  Below the video is a little Q&A with more of our thoughts on television.

Q:  Do we have a television in our home?
A:  Yes.  But, it doesn’t have any channels on it.

Q:  What do we have against “real” television?
A:  Bottom line – the content you can’t control.  The worst being the commercials (which now seem to permeate a lot of streaming video as well, especially the YouTube and Hulu variety.

Q:  What do we use our television for?
A:  We have it hooked up to a VCR/DVD player and we also hook up our computers to it from time to time to stream from the internet.  We also watch old family videos on it.  We use it for school (mostly history) and entertainment.

Q:  Do we have Netflix or something like that?
A:  We have Amazon Prime because we wanted the free 2 day shipping.  There are some good videos available there, but you have to search and you have to be discerning.  Look for kids’ shows and documentaries.  The best part about Amazon Prime is NO COMMERCIALS!

We also have VidAngel.  This is a service that edits streaming video, and it works flawlessly!  There are certain movies like Schindler’s List that we would like our children to see, but do not want them to see ALL of it.  VidAngel handles that.  You can get a FREE month to try it out HERE.  (Note:  The ads for Vidangel that pop up on YouTube are awful.  They feature little kids saying bad words that are bleeped out, but you hear the very beginning sound of what they are saying – not appropriate, in my opinion.  Just wanted you to be aware of this.)

Q:  Have you ever used the television as a babysitter, and would you recommend this?
A:  I bet you are thinking, “There’s no way she’s ever done that, and there is definitely no way she’s going to recommend that!”  You’d be wrong.

While I cannot stand calling it a “babysitter,” sometimes that is the role it can serve.  And yes, I have done it.  However, YOU have to be in control of it.  You cannot let it control everyone’s life, and the moment we see our children craving watching something on the iPad or computer or television, we shut it down.  (This is especially the case with our 3 & 5 year olds who don’t understand moderation.)  Craving tends to come in the form of boredom, or never getting enough television time, or not even wanting to go outside and play because they would rather watch something.

But, there are times when it is completely acceptable to use the television as a “babysitter.”  Morning sickness, needing to focus on schoolwork with your older children, needing to finish a project, or even taking couple time with your husband are a few times that come to mind.  I also allow grandparents to use the television as a tool to keep them from wearing out when they watch our brood.  Just be certain there are CONTROLS put on the content!  You wouldn’t let a foul-mouthed, rude, inappropriate babysitter in your home, so don’t let the television be that either!

Q:  What do you see as the #1 issue with having a television in your home?
A:  Again, it is not the television (or computer) that is the real problem.  It is how it is used and the lack of controls put on it.  The biggest issue I see with it is ESCAPISM.

Children and adults alike are easily drawn to escapism – some more than others.  The world of television takes us out of our reality and gives us a place to go where the troubles of our day are nonexistent.  And while there is nothing wrong with relaxing and taking a break, when we seek that over and over and avoid our responsibilities elsewhere, we are no longer relaxing.  We are escaping.

Note:  Chuck Black deals with this issue very creatively in his book Lady Carliss.  This would make a good read aloud or book for your teen and pre-teen.

Q:  How do you keep the television in its place?
A:  The television is a tool.  As with all tools, it shouldn’t be left lying out all day, every day.

*You don’t have to put your television in the main room of the house.  We keep ours in a guest bedroom.

*You don’t have to allow television time every day.  We have Movie Days – Wednesday, Friday, Saturday, typically in the late afternoon and evening.

*Keep your television inaccessible.  Cover it up.  Keep it in a cupboard.  Put it in a lesser-used room.

One thing we do a lot here is use our laptop or iPad connected to a projector in the living room.  The kids love having a HUGE movie projected on the wall!  A projector isn’t something that can just be left out.  We have to put it away after we use it.  This keeps us from just willy-nilly turning it on!

*Be sure responsibilities are taken care of before the television is turned on.  Is the house tidy?  Is school done?  Are other responsibilities complete?  Television is a time suck – be sure you have the time to give it.

*Never consider it neutral.  Herein lies the culmination of this entire post.  You cannot get complacent.  You cannot simply see the television as harmless entertainment.  It doesn’t matter what show you are watching, it IS teaching you and your children something.  You have to be aware of WHAT it is teaching and IF that is the kind of thing you want taught to your children.  I know all this thinking sort of takes the fun out of watching television, but trust me, in the long run, you’ll be glad you were paying attention.

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24 thoughts on “What is the Television’s Place in Your Home? {Ask Amy}

  1. Yep! You are spot on! We ditched cable a couple years ago, and we are so much better without it.

    For me, the main problem is that screens fuel my laziness. People and things that matter wind up neglected if I have the option to watch, and that’s not good for anyone. My problem has been significantly mitigated not since we ditched cable, but since we ditched out couch!

    If we want to watch something, it’s while sitting on dining chairs or while we all snuggle in bed–either way, not something that can be done all day. It’s better for posture too!

    http://trialanderrorhomeec.blogspot.com/2013/06/no-couch.html

  2. We don’t have a TV, we just use the laptop or iPad and projector. When we moved into our house there just wasn’t a good place for it, so we gave it away. :)

  3. I totally agree with all that you’ve said here! I grew up in a house with one tv and 4 channels. Other than having to go to public school, I had a GREAT childhood. I knew how to be creative, entertain myself, and enjoy God’s creation. My husband grew up with tv, and so when we got married, cable was just an expense he was willing to pay for. It wasn’t really a huge deal, even when we had the two girls, cause we still didn’t really watch that much back then, and we only had one tv. But then the boys came along, and we got a bigger house and he got a better job, and now we have 4 tv’s and have found that our oldest boy, who’s only 3, can’t hardly survive a day without either watching some cartoon, or watching his lego youtube videos. It was a sad day for me when this realization hit. So we’ve done alot of soul-searching and are coming up with a plan! And yes, for me during this LONG winter, it became a babysitter in a bad way. Now it’s an occasional babysitter, in a good way. And mainly for when my hubby and I need to talk, or for when grandma comes to watch. Because the two boys can wear her out faster than 4 girls. :-) Luckily we live in a time when there are LOTS of good pbs shows, and LOTS of good christian videos!

  4. I couldn’t agree more. We don’t have cable but do have Netflix. I love that you can now set up different profiles so that what I watch doesn’t even show up when my kids log on to Netflix. It’s a great feature. I really have to look into VidAngel. There are so many documentaries that I’d love to share with the kids, except there’s a scene or two that I wish wasn’t there. Great post!

  5. Thank you for sharing such a balanced view on this, Amy! We use the television very similarly. Sometimes with a 3 year old and a 1 year old in the house, the television is the ONLY reason we get dinner on the table in a somewhat relaxed fashion. Also, I’m convinced the leapfrog movies my son watches are entirely responsible for him knowing all of his capital and lowercase letters. He learns much more willingly from the cartoon frog than he ever does from me.

    –Kelsey

  6. Totally agree with everything here! Every once and a while we consider purchasing something else, getting some channels……But we always end up right back where we are because we realize all of the trash that would make its way into our home. It’s good to have this articulated so well here so that I can come back and reread it, reminding myself of the reasons/our reasons not to make TV a central thing in our house. Thanks for posting!

  7. Thank you so much Amy!! This couldn’t have come at a better time! It seems like we go in cycles of setting television guidelines and then becoming more and more lax, especially in the winter months when we are stuck inside. My husband and I were just discussing that it is time to get away from the computer and t.v. and back outside! We also recently got rid of cable and just have Netflix and we do have access to public television. We also did not replace our basement television when it broke and like that with only one t.v. in our main room we monitor what is being watched much more closely. We have also found that if the kids are watching shows with commercials we have to be in the room to mute them or turn the t.v. off until the show comes back on.
    Thank you for all of your great insight and guidelines. I like the video format!

  8. I think we’re right on the same page as far as visual entertainment goes. We own 3 tvs and our laptop has a DVD player. I keep out tv with a DVD player and our DVD/ VHS player in my closet now, out computer doesn’t really get much use as its old and mostly used to back things up onto disks and we have Microsoft works and things but no Internet ( accept on one phone so we can do online shopping and cgeck email and a few other things from the house) so it stays in the locked office. The other two tvs aren’t hooked up to anything as we don’t have cable or any other services ( we dont want any exposure to advertisement or most of what on tv. We used to have Netflix but there were only a few things on there left we wanted to watch and hadnt so when we last moved we ended up Not even getting Internet since we don’t need more than a basic 3G to get everything we need it for right now. we do have prime and like that its very controled, if you password lock it it has to be entered before you can watch anything which is nice but we need wifi to use it so when were places with wifi theoretically we could utilize that a little. We only watch DVDs, or the occasional thing on this phone, at home. We keep the DVDs in the locked office at the moment. We have separate cases for DVDs so we can just grab a case with the type of thing we are looking for and go from there, there is a young child’s case, a case for a little but higher comprehension, one for mom and dad that we don’t really ever get out haha but it has movies with content that we don’t like in our house or that definitly needs editing, which would be nice but mostly I don’t even remember what’s in there lol. We have old family movies as well. Our other 2 tvs aren’t really hooked up to anything ( one is actually still in its box, it was a gift and we plan to set up our front room with shelving and put that in there someday but currently that room is not functioning lol) I use the one to make DVDs from our home movies and my husband enjoys the occasional video game ( theoretically, we packed anything like that up ages ago) but he thinks the new tv might be good for that type thing in his den so I don’t think we will be using that. I have a hard time choosing DVDs that are acceptable in my eyes lol. Maybe I over think it but we’ve been gifted some and I’ve put them away because I didn’t think it was something we really needed to watch. But I have found a few things that we like. I ordered ABC say it with me that you just posted about and I think that will be a hit :-) I would love to see a list of recommended DVDs from your readers :-D I too have to admit that with morning sickness and when kids are sick I pull out the tv and we use it when we need it. We have a DVD where a bear is sick we watch that makes my oldest very happy when trapped in bed. I think its a tool that has its place but definitly can be overdone. Its also been used to combat cabin fever. This last winter was long, cold and indoors as we moved when we had snow and were unable to Get under it to clean up for safe play so we couldn’t really go out much :-( so thankful spring is here! Thanks for sharing, people think we are strange for not having a tv or computer out or cable or Internet/ Netflix/ Hulu… And for monitoring our families entertainment so much and we have gotten comments lol.

    • We’ve also struggled with overdoing it a bit this winter and this week is a no tv week about 9 days with no tv and lots of playing outside then we are going to slowly allow a couple DVDs a week and get out of this randomly watching when we feel lazy or tired slump and its been great!

  9. We got rid of our TV almost a year ago, and it was the best decision EVER. We are all healthier and better for it, we spend more time together, and we get outside more. We will never be going back to it. We do miss some of the great films we used to enjoy, but it’s just not worth the toll it took on our family.

  10. We stopped watching tv 8 years ago, and NEVER missed it!
    We use our laptop for videos, and only because we have 4 cognitively challenged adopted kids who LOVE to learn with song, repetition, etc…
    and yes, it makes a great babysitter on those school days when they can’t leave the big kids alone:)
    I do wish we still have our old tv with dvd/vcr just because I had SOOOOO many great kids videos on the old tape style, but hubby is not sure he wants a tv sitting around, and I am totally ok with it, just wishing for some of the OLDIES but goodies:)

      • I found a brand new VCR that has a DVD player too at radio shack ( was so hard to find) I used it to back up all our precious home movies onto DVDs because I had this very concern. I’m so glad I did because now my children can watch videos of us as children. And now we have a VCR :-) so we can watch VHS tapes that we have! Its amazing how fast technology is changing now. I’m not that old and I remember having records and tapes when I was a child and then all the sudden everything was on a disk!

        • They aren’t just on disk, they are ONLINE! We just bought a couple of movies from Amazon that are housed online – our thinking was no scratched disks! ;)

          • Yea I’ve seen that, I love the idea, like you wouldn’t actually have anything you had to keep track of or keep safe or keep at all! I’m very minimalist, I remember learning as a child not to store up treasures on earth and I remember that being something I though a lot about because I felt very attached to certain toys and was rather compulsive so I decided that I needed to get rid of anything like that so I have away anything I owned that I didn’t need or use and most of what I felt attached to, as far as my mother would let me. And I’ve always tried to be very streamline with what we own so the idea of like digital libraries for movies and books and music and photos… That would be so near, really clean out my house ;) But in practice it doesn’t work for us the way we do things these days. We have gotten some disks that came with the online copy though which my husband really liked because he can load them and take them places I think?

  11. Yeah, I glad to see someone else sees the tv for what it is. Our tv broke down many years ago and it never got replaced at that time. Suddenly everybody in the home began to find new and wonderful ways to fill in the time. Lots of interactive family time too. We got a tv again but no channels. VCR and DVD only. We also have access to the internet. The big difference is we get to watch what we want and when we want, we have full control at all times and our time does not revolve around the tv. The funny thing is that out tv sits unused for days at a time because people are too busy here, the household is actually quieter and happier and we love it that way.

  12. What a great post! We cut off our DirecTV this month and I am so happy about it! At first I really missed CNN (I’m a news junkie!) but that lasted a few days and then I was over it. We do have three TVs in the house (1 in the living room, 1 in the playroom for the kids to watch PBS or Netflix on, and 1 in my mom’s part of the house in the basement.) We got rid of the TV in our bedroom which I had been wanting to do for years. It’s not digital so the antennas don’t work on it and I’m not willing to buy another TV to replace it so bye-bye! We watch way too much TV around here so not having 200+ channels to choose from is going to be a good thing for us. Plus, we are already dreaming about what we are going to do with the almost $1200 a year we will be saving! Now to start weaning down on the Netflix watching and we should be able to get to a healthy, acceptable TV viewing time. It’s amazing how this little box can control your life!

  13. Thanks for some gently-spoken, practical tips. Glad you included some real warning in there, and simply the words “allow” next to “grandparents”… that is a tough area for our family, respecting our parents while not sharing the same policies on television and internet. I appreciate your mentioning of that scenario!

    Blessings!
    Marybeth

    • This subject is important to me because my mom has been a widow for 7 years, so going from an empty house to a house FULL of children can be hard. She is gracious enough to care for them from time to time, I don’t want to burn her out. ;)