Part 4: Minimize TV-Time
“…I want you to be wise about what is good, and innocent about what is evil.” Romans 16:19 (NIV)
Ah television. How you’ve changed our lives and shaped our culture. How you’ve morphed our home lives into something… quite different.
When I went off to college as an idealistic 18-year-old, I chose not to have a TV. At that point in time, I began questioning its value in my life. I quite liked it that way.
When my husband and I got married, we chose not have any TV services besides a dinky antenna, which picked up about four, un-enticing channels.
Slowly we’ve upgraded to a nicer TV and a nicer antenna. We’ve been lured in to the slim-pickings of network television, and more recently we’ve added internet TV services like Netflix and Amazon Prime to our lives.
Along the way there have been many conversations about what role we want TV to play in our home.
There have been many course-changes.
Moderating the influence of TV on our home is a mindful, worthwhile, ongoing effort that must be done INTENTIONALLY.
Because otherwise, it just won’t happen. And it certainly won’t happen without a little bit of self-control.
I’m not anti-TV.
I think there are some key reasons to seriously consider restricting its exposure to, and influence over, our families. Here’s why.
Reasons to Minimize TV Exposure
1. It Shapes Our Thinking… and We Don’t Even Know it
Subtle lies are perhaps the most powerful enemy of truth.
In my own life, I’ve noticed that TV watching desensitizes me to sin.
I become numb to God’s grief over sex outside of marriage, homosexual behavior, and extra-marital affairs when the characters are compelling. In fact, these begin to look downright glamorous. I gloss over deception, materialism, drunkenness, false religion and idolatry when it’s wrapped in humor and charm. Maybe these aren’t such a big deal?
My mind becomes confused about the “okay-ness” of these things as Hollywood cleverly and subtly pushes an agenda of immorality and godlessness.
But what does God say?
“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will.” Romans 12:2 (emphasis mine)
My world-view will be shaped but what I put in my mind. My children’s world-view will be shaped in the same way.
I don’t know about you, but I want my mind to be filled with God’s truth. This encompasses both untainted love for people and no illusions about sin.
As I’ve stepped away from television, I’ve regained my sensitivity to sin. Things that bother and grieve God, bother and grieve me again. I don’t want Hollywood to influence my mind. I want God’s word to do that.
Let me challenge you to use caution with this. Because over time, it does make a difference, whether or not you realize it.
2. It Reduces our Productivity and Physical Activity
TV watching is a sedentary and unproductive activity.
You may feel you need the rest time… okay, I understand that. But let me remind you there are other, more productive ways to rest if only you’d let yourself find them (as I have).
Like take a nap. Or crochet. Or read a worthwhile book. Or pray.
And your children certainly have more beneficial things to do, but almost any child will default to the allure of cartoons or TV watching if we allow it. And with all that sitting-around comes less-healthy bodies, increased-chubbiness, and lack of ability to entertain oneself.
Our children lose opportunities for active, creative play. What’s more, they will likely develop life-long habits that reflect how their time is spent now.
If you’d like more information on how TV watching affects children, this is a fascinating collection of research studies and findings on the topic put together by the University of Michigan.
Should you decide to make a drastic change in your child’s TV intake, I’m sure your children will moan and groan. But over time they will adapt. Because that’s what kids do, and you are the parent.
3. It Hijacks Quality Time Together
You might bond as a family over a shared interest in a TV show. I know that has some value.
But if you can find another way to spend time together, one that involves direct interaction, it will be more profitable overall.
Think about the added value of actually talking, eating dinner together, playing a game, going outside, watching your kids put on a performance, etc.
Some older children might be closed-off to alternative ways of spending time together, but if not, try it and see.
4. It Brings Targeted Propaganda into Our Homes
When you turn on a kids channel, full of enthralling cartoons, you are also exposing your children to the show-makers’ unknown agendas and a wide range of age-targeted advertising.
The very purpose of these commercials is to draw our children’s hearts towards discontentment, materialism and a need for something more, is it not?
That’s an enemy of my personal parenting goals.
It’s quite different from the message I’m sowing in my children. Rather, I want to foster gratitude and contentment, because I know all these material things are ultimately quite empty and unfulfilling.
The same is true for you and the TV that you watch. Different commercials, same purpose. And often, the same effect.
What I Do
To give you an idea of what I do specifically, I currently allow my four-year-old (the oldest) to watch 60-90 minutes of TV per day. I use it as a break for both of us. But I’m also able to closely monitor what she watches, and through Netflix, she doesn’t see any commercials. That’s what I’m comfortable with at point this in our lives, and it’s part of our routine.
Personally, I’ve stopped watching television on any kind of daily basis. It’s allowing me to go the Bible and soak its truth in deeply, and not be confused by the messages of the world. This has also allowed me to invest more time in things I care about… like this blog and my home.
Let me challenge you to examine what you are allowing into your home through that TV. Be ruthlessly honest and ask God if a drastic change needs to be made.
Is God calling you to minimize TV exposure in your home?
The ideas in this post are adapted from Disciplines of the Home by Anne Ortlund.
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