The Stranger in my Living Room came into our house by routine. He wasn't ever invited, but he just seemed to always be there. It was a way of life - I was used to it. I didn't really like him or trust him, but I was afraid to kick him out. I was so used to him being there, and everyone else had a Stranger in their Living Room - and their Kitchen, their child's bedroom, rec room, and so on. Sometimes, he'd keep me company when I was lonely, and I'd giggle at some of the things he'd say. He gave me something to do when I was bored.
But there was a dark side to the Stranger. The Stranger showed my family violence; angry murders, terrible crimes. He screamed profanities often and displayed lust, sexual situations, and glorified and perpetuated greed and materialism. The Stranger desired to tell our children they're not good enough and manipulate them into buying more 'stuff' to measure up. The Stranger mostly supported anti-Christ, anti-moral messages that sank way down deep in the fabric of culture. He sucked my time and energy, shut down my brain, and suggested how I live my life - all while I sit idly by, staring, unable to pull my eyes from him. Yet, there he sat.
Until I kicked him out with a passionate boot only a pregnant Mama with a serious waddle could achieve. Yes, the Stranger in the Living Room was the Television.
Our family has been completely TV-free for almost 7 years. Our home actually has no screens at all on a day-to-day basis. We do have computers, but we hide them away and bring them out only when we need them. My husband and I were both raised in, what I like to call, heavy-use families. (grin) Both our childhood homes had more than 3 TVs each, so, it's been quite the change for us. I was once on the Drew Marshall radio show talking about my choice to go completely TV-free (I was in my early 20s at the time). Since I'd studied Media all through high school and then gone on to College and graduated with a diploma in Media Communications and Television Production, he laughed and said my entire life was one big Oxymoron. I kind of like it.
When our children were very young, my husband and I did a sort of inventory about many things in our lives.
We asked what we were gaining from Television and what we were forfeiting. As I clicked through the channels one afternoon, I realized how many programs I was either scared of, disagreed with, or felt upset by in some way. I also started looking for programs that I wouldn't want my children seeing. What I found was over-whelming! Sure, there are a few 'cute' shows, but the good ones came with an onslaught of horrible content.
Our top reasons for tossing the TV are listed in a post on my blog. They focus mostly on things like, more time for God and family, keeping negative influences out of our home, and pushing advertising and consumption further from our lives. We also wanted to commit to being more active, spending loads of time outdoors, forming deeper bonds with each other, and keeping our minds active and curious- always seeking 'the next adventure'. After all, TV does put the brain in a trance-like, hypnotic state, shutting down critical thinking, especially in children. Have you ever noticed the glazed-over expression? It's no joke.
Once you go TV-free, you can never go back. You don't miss the screen. You feel liberated in many ways. You start looking at the world differently. You find other things to do in those quiet times (if they come!)... you go for a walk, you play a game, you talk, you read, you study, you organize, you write ideas in your notebook for your next blog post. (ha)
I know most (99% according to stats) people in North America have at least one TV in their homes. I would never criticize a parent for it - ha, I'd lose a lot of friends! Television seems to be a 'necessary' evil in the minds of so many people. Like that Stranger in the Living Room. It's there because it's always been there, even though so many of us don't always like it - it remains, out of habit. My passion as a Media Educator isn't to tell people how to live. (Who am I?) But I do feel incredibly motivated to share the change we've seen in our own family as we've unplugged more and more.
So, I humbly suggest to other loving parents that they simply question it. Consider it. Ask what they are gaining from having a Television when it comes to their goals for their family's spiritual, intellectual, emotional, and physical health. Consider what life might look like without it. Maybe even discuss it as a family. Why not even try a week or two without TV? You might be surprised at what you find.
What are your thoughts on that Stranger in the Living Room? Do you have one? Have you tossed one? If you choose to keep TV in your home, what are the limitations you place on viewing time, content, and locations of the TVs? I'd love to hear how other families are dealing with the box.
In love, Cassandra