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Did you know that the average American owns 3 televisions and many have a television in their living/family room and each bedroom? It’s really not a wonder that obesity is such an epidemic in this country when kids watch approximately 32 hours of television per week1.
While my kids most certainly did not watch 32 hours a week and we only own one television, I was certainly starting to see some negative effects from the 6-8 hours they were watching in a week (possibly more depending on our schedule on the weekends). So, we decided to experiment with the television, for all of us (not just the kids) and cut it out completely for a month to see how our lives were affected.
We started this living TV free test on October 1, 2012, and went until October 31, 2012. No television at all means no cable (took the cable box back and shut off the cable), no Netflix, no DVDs, and no internet television shows (Although my husband is trying to rationalize his way around this one to me, but I am standing my ground.)
Why Live TV Free
We have a tendency to get these ideas and just run with them in our home. They usually have to do with day trips to the swamp for some gator sightings or to the “big city” of Valdosta or Albany to go to Michael’s and Target. Not often do they include lifestyle changes. We talk a big talk about eating better and exercising every once in a while, but our follow through isn’t great. Will power and discipline isn’t much in our nature (we try to fight back on certain things), unfortunately. Things have to become habit for us to follow through, so making big changes can be hard on us (and our kids). However, we decided one night that this was something we were going to do and we were going to set a goal of a month to make sure we would follow through.
Cancelling cable and Netflix made it more possible to complete the goal because of the effort involved to break our “rules” we set forth. The month was chosen carefully (Even though it falls during football season. David is a college football junkie, so I commend him for his dedication.). October because the weather finally starts to cool off here in South Georgia and that gives the kids the chance to be outside a lot more than in the summer when the heat and humidity are stifling. We have a large back yard (with an awesome trampoline the kids love), so why weren’t we using it more? Our goal was to get the kids (and us) up and moving and away from the television and to spend more quality time together as a family.
Our kids are only little once. We only have one shot to raise them and instill in them values that we want them to carry with them for the rest of their lives. Do I think SpongeBob and Phineas and Ferb (my personal favorite children’s show) were harming them? Some may think SpongeBob is horrible, but my kids are smart enough to know that SpongeBob has lower intelligence than them, so talking like him isn’t something they strive to do 😉 They’ve never been really negatively impacted by the television THEY choose to watch. However, my husband watches a lot of Sci Fi. He’s proud that they like it. I don’t mind that they like it. What I DO mind is when they are screaming in horror at a Doctor Who episode where statues of angels are killing people. Would I prefer nightmares when my kids FINALLY fall asleep at night? Or, would I prefer playing outside – laughing, jumping, running… until they collapse into bed, exhausted from expending pure energy? I think the answer is obvious.
I didn’t grow up THAT long ago. We had a tv (although the earliest one I remember did have a dial and no remote – 13 channels, baby!) and it was color. However, I don’t remember watching it much when I was the age my kids are. By 4th grade, I was coming home from school alone and waiting out that hour or so before my older sister got home in the afternoons. During that hour, I did watch television because I wasn’t allowed to be outside alone. I, being awesome, would do my homework with the television on. But, other than that, I was outside or at a friend’s house almost every day. I played on rocks in the woods, at the playground at the school up the street, made “potions” out of flowers and plants in the backyard…
I understand that we live in a somewhat different world than what I lived in as a kid, but I live in small town America. There is NO reason my kids can’t be outside. Our neighborhood is safe. Everyone looks out for one another. So, why are my kids inside on the television or playing video games a good portion of the day??? I couldn’t give that question any answer that I liked. So, what was the solution? Do away with at least ONE of the temptations – the one that the whole family used. Because, in order to get my kids outside, I needed to be a role model and not be stuck in front of the television (or computer, but that’s another story! LOL) for much of the day. We have a large fenced in yard with bikes, pools, sprinklers and a trampoline. We just needed to get outside and USE them! What better month than a warm Georgia October?
Starting Off Right with TV Free Living
As I am writing this, it is October 4th. We have pretty much just started into this month, but we’ve already been walking almost nightly, ridden bikes to and from the bus stop, jumped on the trampoline for close to an hour a day (well, this one Isaac and I just supervise ;)), the house is cleaner, the grass got mowed (hopefully this will be the last time this year! YAY FALL!), we’ve baked cookies and we have plans this weekend to go to a Harvest festival at a local outdoor village. We’ll see if this keeps up, but I like how things are going so far. Maybe too much 😉
My kids may not like the results when I decide we are a better family without television. But, the hopes are that they will also realize it and will enjoy the time spent together. They are only young once. I can tell you that I do not have the energy I had as a kid. Not by a long shot (I have repeated the line my mom used to say – I wish I could bottle their energy!). But, an active life for us all means more time together, more activity for all of us and, you know me, a little money saved ($89 a month on the cable bill to be exact. Plus whatever electricity we are now not using to run the television!)!!!!
I’ll update at the end of the month with how things wound up.