Turn off the TV—Tips for Families

Just when you think it can’t get any worse, it does. Even though last season’s hit shows were full of stuff you didn’t want your kids to watch or even know about, you turn on the television to find that this season’s shows are even more shocking. One of the best decisions I made years ago for myself and for my family was to cut down on television drastically.

As an author, researcher, and humanitarian, I am often approached by parents about a variety of issues. One topic that never ceases to come up is family issues such as how to promote family togetherness. As a family advocate and mother of three grown children, I speak from experience when I tell them that cutting down on or eliminating TV is the first step in strengthening the family. At first this may seem like a daunting task, but with a few simple tips, parents find it’s much easier than they suspected it would be.

First of all, there is the matter of reducing the amount of TV your family watches to just a few shows a week. In order to do this, I recommend a family meeting to discuss your goals as a family and as individuals. Then take an honest look at what everyone is getting out of television. Unless someone is a professional television critic in your family, chances are good that everyone will agree that they should watch less TV and spend more time pursuing their own goals. With a meeting like this, your kids and spouse will be much more likely to go along with their new lifestyle of less TV because they’ll understand the reason behind it.

I highly recommend implementing a service such as TiVo ® to help keep TV watching to a minimum. After deciding on the reasons for watching less TV, each family member can decide on a handful of shows to watch together as a family, plus a personal favorite or two. These will be the shows that you’ll record with TiVo ® and watch only during designated watching times—Friday nights or Sunday afternoons, for example. These should be shows that are entertaining and also enriching in some way. They don’t necessarily have to be historical documentaries, but avoid the shows which might be properly called “garbage.”

How do you stick to this reduced TV watching schedule? The best way is to come up with stimulating alternatives. Take the kids to the library or play board games. Have larger, longer family dinners at the table. Keeping everyone busy will get their minds off this missing element in their lives. I highly recommend using this time to get the kids to strengthen their reading skills and develop a strong interest in reading. Depending on their ages, read to them or have them read to you. Soon you might find that your family—gasp!—may prefer reading over watching TV.

I always recommend to parents the importance of setting a good example. If you want the kids to see how much fun reading can be, let them catch you in the middle of a book. If you want the kids to appreciate family togetherness, turn off your cell phone during family time. By diving enthusiastically yourself into activities besides watching television, you will influence your kids to do the same more powerfully than any words could.

There are so many reasons to dramatically cut down on television or to cut it out altogether. You’ll find in the end that your children will be much more likely to become avid readers and, as a result, perform better in school and in life. Instead of acting out the drama and degradation on popular TV, your kids will demonstrate the values you seek to pass on to them. You’ll also find your own productivity will increase, and oftentimes, a marriage will be sparked back to life by eliminating television. It may be a challenge at first to get used to your new lifestyle, but soon the benefits will be so rewarding that you’ll be too busy enjoying your higher quality of life that you won’t even think about the absence of television in it.

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