Recently, our family sold our big old boob tube of a TV at a friend’s yard sale (for a whopping $25) and dumped our satellite TV provider altogether. I’ve been threatening to do this for years – just ask my kids.
Now, let me be totally honest and say that we are not technically, totally TV free. For a few weeks, we used our media projector along with our laptop computers to stream TV shows over the net for free. My husband is an electronics wizard, so used his powers for good to allow us to access a bit of television entertainment. In those first couple weeks, my kids really felt the absence of the TV, and got their fix by watching some cartoons and kid shows on hulu.com. (If you try that – definitely preview the cartoons – some are not kid friendly. There is much good stuff for all ages, just be selective.) They also played games on their favorite websites to get the “screen time” they were jonesing for.
We are now several weeks into this new way of life, and I couldn’t be happier with the results. My kids have almost overcome that addiction to screen time. They still ask to watch something now and then with the laptop, play a video game or find something fun to do online. But TV is not the first thing they are drawn to when they walk in the door from school, or roll out of bed on Saturday morning, like it used to be. I’m witnessing lots more playing outside, drawing, reading, pretending, go cart and fort building, digging in the dirt etc.
Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t have a problem with “screen time” activities. I enjoy the diversions of a good, entertaining TV series and have some favorites I like to watch regularly. And video games, movies and online fun are all part of the media reality that is part of modern childhood (in moderation mind you). What I hated were the arguments between viewers, (we were a one TV household when we owned one, and we have three kids – so there you go), the battles about when to “turn it off and go play you couch potato,” and the police mentality I had to keep in order to limit the tube time. Life is now easier, more relaxed, more physically active and more peaceful overall with the TV out of sight.
I say out of sight, because honestly, with my husband’s resourcefulness (remember the techno wizard status?) and a nifty little box and antenna he purchased over the weekend, we can now get HD TV broadcasts of almost anything we could want and project them at 4′ x 6′ on our family room wall. SHHHH – DO NOT tell my 10 and 8 year old! The 14 yo has inherited his Dad’s magical ways and already knows how to work all the equipment. I can always just play my “new media” luddite card if the younger ones start to wise up and ask me to make it work for them, because in all honesty I don’t really know how and I don’t even care. (So I must be aging.) The point here is that there is no giant TV in my family room staring you in the face as soon as you walk in there anymore. It’s out of sight, out of mind. Now they think of TV when they see the laptop sitting on the table though – so that is the next challenge we’ll have to overcome.
A side note – hubby “needed” the special HD broadcast antenna dealie because you can’t get NFL football games from any online source, only from the original broadcast. And come on, how can you play fantasy football if you can’t even watch the games!? What fun is that? He’s a hard working guy and a wonderful husband and father, so I think he deserves his football watching pleasures. If you are interested in how to set up such a system yourself, check out his blog about the project equipment and configuration at http://findtheduck.com/tv4free
While this all started as a means to save money by cutting the satellite bill from our budget, it has had wonderful side effects and I wish I’d pawned off the TV years ago, instead of just ranting about it during moments of extreme frustration.