I 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.