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TV–Choice or Necessity?

January 22, 2008

by BiV

A number of years ago, when DH and I were setting up our household, a big question for young parents was whether or not they would have a TV in their home.  Technology had progressed to the point that almost every family could afford a television, but whether or not we wanted its influence in our home was still a big question.  This, along with the related question, “Should we get cable?” has been hotly contested between my spouse and myself for 25 years.  In the early days of our marriage, and for a few years after a move, we were TV-less.  But for many of those 25 years it has occupied pride-of-place in our living room.  What advantages and disadvantages does a television hold specifically for Latter-day Saints?

Family Life

I believe TV has a huge effect on family life.  During the years we did not have a TV, our family played games together.  The kids went outside and played, and we went with them.  We went to parks, we went swimming together, we visited friends.  The family ate dinner together more often, and we talked more.  With TV, many of our family home evenings became watching TV together (the same thing we did every other night.)  Once a television enters our home, we find it difficult to control.  We will start with rules like: No TV except on weekends.  This becomes: No TV until homework is done.  Later, we wake up one day to find that all rules have vanished. 

Consumerism

When my children were growing up with no television, they were happy with whatever cereal I brought home.  They asked for one or two things for Christmas, often toys they could play with outside, like a football, or a baseball glove.  I felt that this had the effect on my LDS family of making us more sensitive to how we could help others with our resources, instead of having so many things that we “needed” placed inside our heads by TV commercials.

Time

We don’t realize just how much time the TV sucks out of us until we live for a while without one.  With the Mormons and all we have to do, time is at a premium.  Suddenly we find ourselves doing our home and visiting teaching more often.  We read scriptures every evening before bed.  We have time to do homework and review the times tables with our kids.  There is time to read together as a family, and everyone gets hooked on books.  We spend more time on our callings. 

Being Informed

This is one area in which there are advantages and disadvantages to having a TV.  On the one hand, with a TV you are kept up-to-the-minute on what is happening in the world.  Programs on the History channel and other cable offerings have much to teach that is not available in any other way.  And what about sports???  On the other hand, you are more swayed by politically correct opinions than if you search out your news from a variety of sources, including internet, newsmagazines, newspapers, NPR, etc.  With a TV everyone in the home is bombarded with secular points of view and specifically Mormon teachings we are trying to instill can easily be eclipsed.  DH always campaigned for a TV by citing how convenient it was to watch Conference at home.  But now we can do this online — no TV needed.

I still don’t spend much time in front of the television (guess where I am while the rest of the family is watching “So you think you can dance?”).  But I still wonder how important this media choice is to Latter-day Saints today.  What do you think?  Does television make a difference in the quality of your life?  Do people still make a conscious decision, “will we or will we not have a TV?”  Or is it simply a given that when you set up house you will get a toaster, shower curtain, and TV? 

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9 comments

  1. Last year we got into a major remodeling project and had to move out of the house for a while. The first few weeks we had no TV, but we adjusted. The kids went to friends’ homes and my wife and I actually talked to each other. We finally hooked one up (we had to get cable as local reception is crappy) and it was even better as we all sat together in one room for something other than dinner or family prayers. Then we moved back into our home with three TVs plus computers plus video games and here we are all living together apart.
    Actually it’s not that bad. I think the time we had the one TV made our younger kids appreciate our ‘together’ times more and now, after almost a year back in the house, we often find ourselves in the same room, if not watching TV, then just being together (except for the teenager on the couch busy text-messaging anybody and everybody).


  2. The best rule is as follows:

    1) no tv’s, computers or telephones in the kid’s bedrooms. ever.
    2) only one tv per household
    3) only one computer (and maybe a laptop) to be used in a common room
    4) only one video game console in the common room
    5) strict viewing hours, gaming hours and strict bedtimes (even for the teenagers and parents).
    6) dinner every night together.

    If you ignore these rules, don’t be surprised when your family is fragmented and the kids start getting into trouble.

    NOTE: Now watch how many commenters start bemoaning why this is not possible for their family. They will come out of the woodwork.


  3. Michael, it’s possible. I agree with some of your suggestions. But your “rules” are not exactly revelations from on high, and I’m not really interested in living with just one computer in the house. Computing side-by-side works very nicely for us.


  4. Thanks, Michael, for the “only-true-rules-for-television.” Just wondering, do you have teenagers yet? If so, do they participate in sports or activities? If so, what time do you eat dinner? Also, what time is bedtime?


  5. I just blogged about my life without cable today. I agree with you about the general lack of information that happens without cable (which where I live means TV) but I can find it online. I think most tv in general has gotten worse and less compelling…but it does suck out so much time. It because a habit to just have it on so the drone of voices fills the silence.

    but I’ve also discovered that the computer can become the same sort of vice.


  6. That was supposed to say it “becomes” a habit-not because


  7. When we moved six years ago, we didn’t hook the TV back up to the outside world. No cable or satellite. We do get out the rabbit ears twice a year for General Conference, but after the first few weeks, we haven’t missed it at all. We do have a collection of DVDs and VHS tapes, and a Netflix subscription, so I have gone on the occasional *Heroes* or *Battlestar Gallactica* binge.

    My daughter, 15, and I were talking just last night about books and how truly impoverished people who won’t participate in the Great Conversation are. Then I brought up that in pop culture, our family could be considered impoverished, since I’ve never seen American Idol or Lost or Will & Grace. There will be references that will blow right past me, jokes I won’t get. Oh well.


  8. We have a TV, but for the first several years of our marriage, we lived in areas where you couldn’t get any channels unless you had cable or a satellite dish. We didn’t have cable or satellite, so we had no channels. We just watched videos. My children weren’t aware until a couple of years ago that there were other channels besides “3.” I still don’t let them watch anything but “3” (with a video or DVD playing–I don’t have them look at snow). My husband and I used to watch some shows occasionally, after the kids went to bed, but mostly we watch DVD’s (including TV shows on DVD). It’s not as super-righteous and awesome as being TV-free, but our kids don’t get exposed to nearly as many commercials, and it is easier to be on top of what media they’re taking in (since I essentially control it, at least at home). And we don’t have “appointment TV.” We watch when we have time and when we feel like it. We miss a lot of the pop culture events idahospud alluded to, but pop culture has become extremely unimportant to me, and hopefully it will be less important to my kids than it was to me when I was younger. The TV doesn’t just stay on for hours at a time, which was how I grew up. It does make a difference.


  9. We have gone back and forth on this, and ended up without TV, part by default (we can’t get a local connection without cable) and part by choice. My hubby has wanted no TV since before we were married, and it actually appealed to me. I haven’t liked it when I want to feel connected, but now with the internet, I don’t feel I lose anything significant by not having TV. The benefits far outweigh the costs. (We do own a TV and have our own movies.)

    I would add one more thing to your list, BiV…if you don’t have cable/satellite, you save a decent amount of money every month. The fact that we are cheap helps make the choice all that much easier for us. 🙂



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