How to Unplug Your Kids in One Day

Guest Post by Morgan at The Diet Coke Diet

I absolutely must start this with a clarification: You do not have to ban TV and DVDs forever if you choose to “unplug.” You can use the following tips to eliminate or cut back on TV watching and video games. Only you know what your children need.

We all know that kids need fresh air, fun projects, free play time and lots of time reading books. But personally, I have found (and maybe you have too) that if I am not very careful about how and when I use television or DVDs, it becomes my go-to — my cure-all for rough days, for busy days, for lazy days, for sick days. It’s just quick and easy.

In my case, there was no cable needed. Good old PBS kids + a TIVO was just enough for an unfortunate television addiction. So, I decided to undo what I had done. I unplugged my kids, and I did it in one day. Cold turkey.

Before you do it:

Make sure your spouse (and all caregivers) are on board.

First and foremost, your spouse must be on board and willing to uphold the new regime. If the kids know as soon as you walk out the door that Daddy will turn on the television, you will not be successful long-term. If you and your partner can have plans together on how to handle tough moments, you’ll be stronger and more prepared for road bumps. You have to be a united front; it’s vital.

Plan ahead.

You need to know when you as the parent are at your weakest and more likely to turn on the tube. You also need to identify when your kids get whiny and start asking for the television. That way you’ll be prepared to confront those moments. For example, if you always use TV while you shower and get ready for the day, try showering at night, or getting up before the kids. You can enlist your partner in this too.

Part of planning ahead is carefully deciding when to end the TV habit. If you choose to turn off the TV on a rainy, freezing cold day, you’ll have a much more difficult time of it than if you choose a warm, beautiful day. You’re going to need to use the outdoors to your advantage.

Young children thrive on routine, and they recognize and depend on TV time just as much as you do. To be successful, you’re going to need to have alternative activities planned and scheduled for the times when you usually use television. Fun and engaging activities keep little ones occupied so they don’t miss the TV.

8 Tips:

1. If the TV always goes on first thing in the morning, try to get plenty of sleep the night before so you can get up and get going rather than turn on cartoons and go back to bed.

Start your day with breakfast instead of TV. If that isn’t an option, provide your kids with a basket of toys and books for the morning time so you don’t have to get up before you’re ready. Carefully select toys and books that won’t be destructive or noisy.

2. If your weakness is to turn on the TV for your preschooler during the baby’s nap, then get play dough, crayons, pipe cleaners and other simple craft supplies and set up special “Quiet Time” play opportunities. That way, your preschooler will be so excited to do “new” things with you that the loss of his movie time won’t bug him as much.

3. If you tend to turn the TV on to beat the afternoon blahs, turn to the outdoors (this is where a nice day is key to unplugging). Children need fresh air almost as much as they need food.

Kids who spend all day in school (even when recess is included) need the freedom to run and jump and twirl without structure. Preschoolers need to learn motor skills. Childhood obesity is reaching epidemic proportions. I completely believe that media is a key component to that.

Fresh air is vital. If you’re home all day with preschool children, the minute you start to feel your fingers itch for the remote, hit the playground or the back yard. Get up, get out! GO!

4. If you just want to check your email and write a blog post, and your kids bug you unless they are plugged in, carve out time once the wee ones are in bed to be on the computer for an hour. If that’s not an option, provide them with fun activities right next to you, such as drawing or puzzles, so they aren’t feeling like they need to be obnoxious just for attention. Keep computer time to a minimum to avoid disasters.

5. If your hard time is when you’re trying to prepare dinner, have a family pow-wow in the kitchen. Have the older kids do their homework and tell you about their day, and the younger ones “help” you with dinner.

Tupperware and spoons with some dry rice or noodles can seriously entertain a toddler for quite a while. You can also enlist older kids to read stories to younger ones. Anytime you can replace TV-watching with book-reading, you’re doing a good job. Visit the library one afternoon a week to keep the literature new and interesting.

6. If your children are old enough, use the late afternoon to help children enhance talents or hobbies. Art, music, photography, dance, scrapbooking, and writing are all great things to do instead of television-watching. This is also an excellent time for school-aged kids to practice those instruments or whatever skills they are working on. If you can stand to listen to violin practice and provide feedback while the pork chops broil, then you’re in a great place!

7. If you use TV at the end of the day for a treat or to unwind, replace it with family game night. Games like Apples to Apples or Cranium are fun for all ages. Toddlers who are too small to play are usually content to hold a game piece and feel like they are participating. Books before bed are always a nice,  quiet way to end the day as well.

8. If you are used to having the TV on all day as background — or to watch shows you like — you can replace the noise with music from an Mp3 player or CDs.

By the end of a no-TV day, you will be so tired, and yet you will feel so gratified! You did it! You actually did not turn on the TV for your children even once. If you feel like it, do it again tomorrow. It gets easier every single day.

But let’s get real here: Kids who have been raised on a steady diet of lots of television or DVDs are not going to give it up easily. Older kids, especially, are going to notice the lack of television.  They are going to complain, they might even weep and wail and gnash their teeth.

Decide what’s right for you and your family

You can decide what works for you, but I suggest having them earn their media time (I say media because you can apply all the above to computer time as well). They want a half hour of media? Then they have to practice piano for 30 minutes.

Use chores or homework to earn their time. This teaches them that media is a privilege, not a right. If you really want to undo media entirely, then have open discussions about your feelings and why you’ve made this choice for them. Since families are not democracies, they do not have to agree, or like it. They’ll adjust. Really, they will.

Don’t cave. It’s just one day at a time. Be strong.

Children absorb media, even if they aren’t specifically paying attention. Bad language and violence affects them, even if they are not directly watching. If you find that the TV habit is yours to break, then apply similar tactics for yourself.

I’ll repeat this point: Unplugging does not mean sledge-hammering your television. I still turn on the TV probably three days out of a week. However, there are days (or a string of days) when the kids don’t watch anything. Those tend to be the best days.

Morgan writes real, do-able how-tos for life with zero money and zero time at www.thedietcokediet.com. She mothers three boys, a dog and wifes a really nice guy. She lives south of Salt Lake City, UT and looks forward to the day when her husband finishes school. She is a doula in her spare time.

photo credit: Mike Baird; DebCll; D14BLO

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Comments

  1. says

    I found out something this past week… my son got in trouble and I took out the TV from his room and he came to me a day later and said “ya know mom, its nice not having a tv in here, I get to play with all the toys I normally don’t play with”

  2. Kim says

    We “unplugged” for the month of June, and we’re surviving just fine. We normally have a TV/DVD/Wii Free month every January, but we were all very sick this January and it got skipped. So we decided to do it this month, and it’s been good for all of us, not just the kids. :)

  3. Honey says

    Great article! Going to start implementing some of this in my family for sure! Thanks for sharing!

  4. jessica says

    :) Our 3 year old doesnt even know our tv works.. As a whole my husband and i only watch about 3 hours a week..(due to the overwhelming amount of smut that has overran it!) but our son never watches it.. nor does he watch movies. This is because we think instilling creative play and imagery play comes from playing… he prefers to read and that is such a joy!! good luck to all those parents who try and go Unplugged! YOU CAN DO IT!:)

  5. says

    I don’t mind so much if we watch a little TV every day- as long as it is not too much.

    So we do a token system where the two girls each get 1 token (1/2 hour of TV) per day. They can each watch one 1/2 hour show or put them together to watch an hour or they can save them and watch a movie ever couple days. And I am OK with that.

    It works and they don’t really bug us to watch more- since then are in control (or at least feel like they are)

    jen

  6. Jeannine says

    You will not regret it if you trash your TV. Mine went to the landfill about 6 years ago. It would have went sooner for me, but my husband had to be the one to trash it not me.

    King David said, “I will set no wicked thing before my eyes.” There is much to do there is work on every hand. Not enough time for watching other people “live.” God wants us to live ourselves and experience life.

  7. brookeb says

    I know that most posters will probably be for moderation moreso than “throw the tv away”, but I do want to make the case for teaching older children about good cinema too. Film throughout the decades has highlighted so many things about society and shows creativity and storytelling on a different level; as a college prof I also feel that it’s something that a young adult should be versed in, just like being well-read.

    • Brandy says

      @Lisette, That’s what I was thinking! My 3 kids are up and ready for breakfast by 6:30 every morning. I have to get up by 5:30 just so I have time to get ready before they get up or I may never get another chance throughout the day.

    • Anitra says

      @Lisette, my child(ren) is too young for me to do it, but I have been sorely tempted some days when my toddler is up at 6am.

      I do remember as a fairly young child (5-9 years old) being the first one up on Saturday mornings and watching cartoons for an hour or two before my parents would get up.

  8. Mandy says

    We did this about 5 years ago and have NEVER looked back!! The kids pretend and use their imagination to entertain themselves. They make up games and stories and act them out. (They were never that creative when we had the TV on all day!)

    It was the best decision we’ve ever made! Honestly!

  9. Julie Parker says

    We’ve been without a tv for years and it’s amazing how our kids don’t seem to miss it. We may watch a little pbs online or a movie over the weekend, but I promise you will not miss it a bit! You’ll wonder how you ever found time to watch it. Just think of the commercials and influences you are saving yourself and your kids from. Walks are wonderful ways for the family to unwind and get a little exercise in.

  10. Amanda says

    Great post! When we moved, we decided not to turn on cable, but rather to do Netflix instead (a lot cheaper). It’s a lot easier to monitor TV time if you just put on a short kids show in the morning because when it’s over, you turn it off. It’s not like cable where the shows just keep coming and they don’t want to come away from it. My husband was skeptical that my son could “live without” his cartoons, but soon agreed it worked out really well.

  11. says

    My husband ran all the power cords for the TV/DVD player/VCR through a power strip with an on/off switch, then put the strip in a location unreachable by our 6 year old son. He no longer tries to get up and watch TV in the EARLY morning before we are up, and all TV is banned until chores and daily summer homework is done for the day. (I also limit the content and time watched once he’s allowed to turn it on.) It’s still probably more than an ideal amount of TV, but having TV and computer privileges that I can revoke is the most effective behavioral tool I have!

  12. Teresa schilling says

    We have not had Tv for a year now, but do buy some classics and educational movies that we watch about once a week. Some of the old moveis where actually moral. Yes, most are black and white and some are harder to see do to aging, but it gets the kids imagination going and shows them a simplier time and way of life. Moody has a good science set and we have a few preachers we like to buy sets from as well. TV? my kids could care less and have no clue what is really on it, which is just fine with me.
    I do miss the news once in a while. Like we had a tornato two miles from us two days ago, and I was able to get some of the local news on the internet, but for me it is just not the same.

  13. Lee says

    We recently (a few months ago) really made this effort. Wow has it payed off. The TV was on mostly in the mornings and then a tiny bit in the afternoon. We also switched to a token system for our boys and it has really helped them feel in control and happy with the system. They fought it a few days, the younger one for almost a month. But now we really enjoy it. Also it is great to get up and get our day started with a nice morning routine and breakfast instead of cartoons!

  14. Christie Blair says

    We got out of the TV habit over a year ago and it’s been great. The kids watch some DVDs from time to time, but we go days without anything.

    Did have to laugh at all the suggestions to go outside, however. We’ll keep that in mind for this winter when others are snowed in and we get our outdoors weather here in south Texas.

    • Katie says

      @Christie Blair, As a fellow South Texan I was thinking the exact same thing – go outside for the afternoon blahs? We would all roast!! I plan on taking full advantage of this as soon as it cools off some though.

      • says

        @Katie,
        As a fellow Texan, I also agree! We always tells our boys that if they don’t go out in the morning, they aren’t going out at all! Too hot! And that definitely makes it more difficult to cut back on the tv. I appreciate some of the ideas on here though, especially the token idea! Let’s please all remember that we have freedom in Christ, and that while some of you may feel that no tv is what is right for your family, that it is not wrong for others to choose differently, so long as their hearts and motives are firmly rooted in Christ. And even though some people may believe being a Christian and watching modern tv shows cannot coincide, that is up to the individual believer and God to decide for them.

      • says

        @Katie,
        Sorry, Katie, it looks as if I was directing that response just to you (about our freedom in Christ), but it was to everyone reading this. I just hit reply to the Texas thread and didn’t realize my post would read as directly responding to you!

  15. says

    We haven’t watched tv for years, and we don’t miss it one bit! Our kids don’t realize there is anything to miss. It’s been great for our family.

  16. Janice says

    I am thankful that my kids never got into the habit of turning on the tv without our permission, so my husband and I are still very much in control of what we all watch. We have a DVR, so they kids get to watch one show in the afternoon while I am prepping dinner if they want to. Plus we have movie night together once a month or so.

    Outside activities are really not an option right now with the extreme heat and smog, so we get creative inside. A favorite right now is for the kids to listen to a book-on-cd that we chose from the library while they are playing with trains, cars, etc. Even I enjoy listening while I am doing my housework, bills, etc… We also do alot of crafts and “table time” activities to keep us busy inside on these super hot days!!

  17. says

    My mind has been on unplugging this week. Today I decided that we would NOT turn on any videos. My husband came home a few minutes before nap time, and what was the first thing he did? Turned on the TV. “No! Not until the kids are asleep!” So yes, I need to make sure he’s with me before I make this decision.

    My kids are still young for this, but I heard of a family who designed a reward system to “buy” screen time in 30-minute increments. They earned minutes by doing chores, homework, piano practice, etc., but also by spending time with friends with no electronics involved. This made sure that the kids were also building social skills and strengthening friendships, which can be a problem with too much TV, computer, video games, and now even cell phones.

  18. Christine says

    This is an excellent article! I frequently tell people, “I don’t want the television to be the backdrop of my life, or the life of my family.” We own one, of course, but I’d rather fill our lives with books, games, playing, singing, projects, and laughter than the droning of a television.

  19. Julie says

    This has been on my mind for some time now. When DH and I got married, we didn’t own a TV for a year and it was awesome! I can go all day without the TV on but my hubby is a news/sports/Law and Order junkie and it seems to be always on. I suggested getting rid of our TV and he wasn’t keen on it. Our kids are watching too much TV now and it has been hard to keep them entertained when we are inside all day (either freezing or extreme heat outside). I try to take them out several times a week to do things and we love the library. I may suggest to my husband we put the TV in the basement (where no one goes) for a month and go from there. He’ll have a harder time than the kids, I’m sure…lol. It is always a burden for me though….I really want less TV!!

    Oh, and we were the ones whose child got up by himself (and I left something out for breakfast) and watched TV when we had a newborn in the house….we were desperate for sleep and this worked….well, it’s a habit that needs breaking now!

  20. Katie says

    Hey I love TV, why unplug it? There are some excellent educational and interesting programmes on TV especially on Eden and the History Channel.

    This remains me of the time I took Chocolate mini-rolls to a party and they got whisked away and replaced with Carrot sticks. Does everything need to be reviewed, examined and assessed? Sometimes you can eat Chocolate Mini Rolls for breakfast whilst watching TV and you’re still a good mum!

    • says

      I personally think everything needs to be reviewed, examined and assessed. We need to live on-purpose and, as a Christian, I want to live my life in a way which is glorifying to God. Much of what is on TV is trash and stuff we shouldn’t subject ourselves or our children to. I also believe that there are many much more profitable things which can be done with our time than wasting away hours of our life watching meaningless fluff which does nothing for us.

      That said, there are some decent educational programs, DVDs and movies and we’ve chosen to allow our children to occasionally enjoy these. However, just as a diet composed completely of Chocolate Mini Rolls would be unhealthy, so if our children spend a large amount of time consuming television shows, I believe it will be very detrimental to them — physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. There must be balance, as in all things!

      • Katie says

        @Crystal,
        I agree. However their are excellent programmes on TV – obviously discretion is required. Some stuff on TV is rubbish but TV is also a useful learning tool and good way of getting the news. It also allows children to chill for a while. My children are so busy doing things such as Tennis, French and Music Classes – sometimes it is nice to chill. I work, write and study (second degree) and sometimes I like to chill in front of the TV.

        A close relative of mine lived a purposeful life, always making every minute count and they suffered a nervous breakdown. Sometimes we need to clock off and relax – eat popcorn and watch a movie (for no other reason but to have fun!)

  21. says

    Great article and really interesting comments…with school just letting out today where I am (Montreal), unplugging seems like a fabulous idea! Perhaps I’ll try “the TV is broken” trick and see if my 7 year catches on.. lol!

  22. says

    this is so timely…we are on day 3 of no TV. I have a big sign on our screen to remind us and my daughters loved the sign. It made it more of a game instead of a punishment.

    I also agreed to turn off the computer during the day – that is my weakness and addiction. It has been good for them to see that mommy is sacrificing, too. And we have had a GREAT week….playing with friends, reading books, going to parks…

    • says

      But think of all those hours you can never get back! We allow watching of high-quality DVDs in our home for a small percentage of each day and watch some educational DVDs for homeschooling, but basically we never watch TV just because there are so many other wonderful things to do with one’s life!

      At the end of my life, I doubt I’m ever going to say, “I wish I had spent time watching TV.”

      • says

        @Crystal, Do you think the three (young) adult children described in the blog post would say “I wish I had spent *less* time watching TV”? I certainly don’t.

        I realize that many parents feel that they need to control what their children see. The same thing can be accomplished by blocking certain channels, in addition to only allowing “acceptable” media into the home.

        • says

          @Andrea Q, Actually yes. :) We never watched TV growing up and I am so thankful to my parents for instead encouraging us to spend our time productively — read good books, get fresh air and exercise, learn useful skills, be entrepreneurial, serve and minister to the elderly and needy in our church and community, spend time with our family and so on. Frankly, our lives were so full that we never missed felt like we missed out in any way.

          And I definitely know that I would not be the person I am today, nor would our family have saved 100% down for our first home if I had wasted hundreds of hours my life — both as a child and adult — watching pointless television shows. I owe a debt of gratitude to my parents for inspiring us from the time we were young to make the most of our time.

          We only have one life to live and I want to live it to the fullest — making the most impact I can with the time I have.

        • Chandler says

          We have personally talked about getting rid of our TV when our contract is up. Other than PBS kids, I haven’t seen much on my stations that a child should be watching.

          Sometimes what I have noticed is not the actual show but the commercials during the show that really aren’t appropriate for children. I am thankful for this particular blog posting and hope to share it with my husband.

      • says

        @Crystal, In response to your second comment, I’m pretty sure you could find people who have done all you have (and probably more) while “wasting” time watching television. You can consume significant amounts of media and still have a productive, fulfilling (debt-free, active, community-oriented, etc) life.

        • says

          That’s very possible. However, I have yet to meet anyone who has told me that watching countless hours of pointless television shows has made them a better person or significantly improved their life. :) Now, rest assured, I’m not saying every TV show is pointless or meaningless, but I’d wager to say that a large majority of them really do not improve our quality of life.

          Of course, that’s just my perspective based upon my very limited knowledge of television shows. :)

  23. kara says

    Back last fall I read an article about the Obama family and that their girls cannot watch any TV during the school week. I thought that sounded wonderful, since it was such a problem with my youngest wanting to only watch TV when she got home from preschool. So, one Monday morning I announced that there would be NO TV during the week until chores were finished on Friday afternoon and then the TV could come on within reason until Sunday evening. I thought it would be horrible, but after a couple of days of asking to watch TV—the creative juices began flowing on their part. My youngest discovered books on CD and coloring in her room. I truly believe she is reading on a 2nd grade level (she just finished Kindergarten) because she was exposed to so much “reading” instead of TV watching.
    The funny thing about it all—there are many weekends they don’t even turn the TV on because they are so out of the habit of watching! It’s been one of the best decisions as a parent I’ve made.

  24. Yessel Arevalo says

    Thanks for the article. It is a great motivator for me to get creative and do projects with my 2 year old son to keep him entertained instead of his favorite VeggieTales DVDs. My husband and I got ‘rid’ of access to television shows and basically kept our tv only to watch movies. I have always said I don’t want tv to babysit my kids, but I am realizing that although we got ‘rid’ of tv shows, my son loves his movies so much he could spend hours watching them. And I allow it so I am able to do other things. Little by little his movies have become his babysitter which is exactly what I didn’t want to happen! So, I need to unplug the tv for a while and step in as a parent and actually create memories with my son. Now, my problem is my lack of creativity.
    Can anyone offer me some tips on easy to do projects with my 2 year old son? I am a full time working mom and basically only have evenings and weekends with my son, (sad I know). My husband and I are working on becoming debt free so I could be a stay at home mom, but that’s another story.
    Please advise, thanks!

    • says

      @Yessel Arevalo, Sing and dance (songs with movement like the Hokey Pokey); using measuring cups and other containers for water play in the sink; creating artwork with dried beans, popcorn kernels and rice (and glue); finger painting with paint, shaving cream or pudding

  25. Robyn says

    I gave up on TV when I was about 10 years old. I realized I was always watching something I didn’t like while waiting for something good to come on, and I’d rather read a book or play outside. My family still had a TV, but I rarely watched it except as a family activity. Went through college without a TV (although I watched DVDs on my computer sometimes), and then got married to a man who also didn’t have a TV. We finally bought one secondhand so we could host Dave Ramsey’s FPU (needed to be able to show the DVDs in the living room!). It’s hooked up to a DVD player, but we don’t have cable, satellite or even rabbit ears. When our kids (currently 2 years and 4 weeks) are older I envision a family movie night on a regular basis featuring and old classics or the occasional modern gem, but I’m happy to say I’ve never sat our children in front of a TV. They are sometimes exposed to it at friends’ houses or in the doctor’s waiting room, but it’s not something we seek out. We’ve just started listening to radio dramas (Adventures in Odyessey) with our 2yo in the evenings and he really enjoys those even though I don’t think he follows the stories yet.

  26. Kathryn says

    Thanks for the balanced perspective. Our culture seems to want to go in one of two directions: uncritical, passive absorption of whatever media producers want to toss at us vs. complete disconnection from all mass media because it’s evil, evil, evil. It’s nice to hear from someone who approaches the issue from a more nuanced, practical standpoint.
    I can’t imagine us unplugging completely, especially since DH is a professional photographer/videographer. Asking him to forgo TV and movies would be like asking a writer not to read books, or a painter not to look at others’ artwork. But we’ve always prioritized interactive family time, carefully controlled what our preschooler watches, and limited screen time for everyone in the family.

    • says

      @Kathryn, Thanks Kathryn. I couldn’t agree more. I feel really good about the balance we’ve achieved as a family when it comes to media. And like a previous poster said, it is up to each family and God what we decide and how we decide it. :) But it does not have to be all or nothing.

  27. says

    I grew up without a TV after I was 3….and I think it was fine, but I also think that controlled small amounts of some kinds of movies or some TV is okay, in moderation. I have found some things that i think it has made me a better person by watching, but also there are some really awful stuff on there as well. I prefer reading books! We limit TV and put it away in the summer time, but we have really long winters here and i have to have one for our homeschool curriculum and it really helps with our school curriculum.

  28. Maria says

    Great article!! If it was up to dh…our 2 yr old would be watching tv all day long…he can’t entertain her at all so that’s his only way out and I refuse to put her in front of the tv for any amount of time. I rather read books to her all day long…she gets way more from reading than tv(MPO), and I also take her to story time at the library rather than tv…and I always make an excuse for her when she asks to watch a movie. However, if she watches tv – it’ limited to half hour. Dh and I are always in disagreement on this…maybe I can show him this article…thanks!!

  29. Robin says

    Great article! We have begun to implement something like this in our household as well, but any thoughts on what my husband and I should do about one of the kids’ Grandmas who will let them watch TV for the entire 3 or 4 hours she might babysit them? We’ve tried giving her suggestions and supplies for other activities to do and that didn’t work. It really sets us back everytime she’s over, but we want the kids to be able to spend time with their Grandma too. Any advice would be appreciated!

    • says

      @Robin, The sad thing is if they are doing nothing but watching TV with Grandma, then are they really spending time with her? Perhaps you could schedule outings or activities that Grandma comes along with for that quality time. That way if she continues to use media as her management of your kids when she babysits, it’s not the only time she gets to spend with them. And like you said, providing her with alternatives didn’t work. So I would guess she’s just going to do it that way. The only thing I can think to stop it is to have an actual sit-down conversation about WHY you feel this way, and then continue to provide her with alternatives. Good luck!

  30. Kathy says

    Just an FYI to everyone about the COST of TV…we went on an energy plan to save on our outrageous electric bill. Our off peak hours for running any heavy consumption appliances are 7pm to 7am weekdays. We were told that any flat screen TV larger than a 36 inch is consitered a huge electric consumer and should never be on for more than 1 hour during peak times a day. We have shut off our larger TV and have our small one on for 1 hour of Dora per day during peak times and along with doing laundry only evenings and weekends and doing all oven cooking on weekends our electric bill dropped to half in 1 month! Robin…tell Grandma that you want your kids to spend time with her not the TV and that you only want the TV on for 1 hour a day period then put the thing on a timer so it shuts off after an hour. If your kids are in front of the TV the whole time Grandmas are there then they don’t really know who they are with anyway! Tell them you cannot afford to have the TV on all day. I can’t imagine Grandma wants to create a financial problem for you!

  31. Kassandra Wood says

    I appreciate this guest post, but I can’t relate to it at all. :( I have to say, we love our television. We won’t be “unplugging” anytime soon. Child-friendly television shows are a great treat and a wonderful way for our children to unwind. My husband and I watch everything our children are interested in ~before~ they do. It is absolutely possible to control what your children are watching by simply watching the show before them and then with them. We enjoy Family Nights with Netflix, a blanket, some popcorn and lots of love and snuggling. Our daughter is Gifted and Talented, testing in the top 5% of children in the nation. Our son is well ahead of the game, educationally. We are involved in our church, we volunteer at our local SPCA, our daughter is a peer coach for the local Special Olympics team and we support her, my husband and I coach baseball, my husband manages a men’s softball team and assists with our church’s sports ministry, our children are involved in seasonal sports, both are enrolled in gymnastics for the summer. I think you can have active, well-rounded children and enjoy good, wholesome television. :) I love that you posted this, because I think everyone can benefit from reading someone else’s perspective. Just wanted to say that we are watching TV without raising lazy, foul-mouthed, delinquent children. (he he)

    • says

      @Kassandra Wood, I totally agree! We watch TV around our house each day, too. I have extremely bright kids, our family is very close, and we’re super involved in many other activities – including church. Our kids don’t sit and stare at trashy TV all day. They ride bikes, play outside, read, play games, work on the computer, participate in family devotionals, etc. Sounds pretty well-rounded to me!

      Unplugging is great, don’t get me wrong. But there’s just no reason to assume that watching a few fun shows is a total waste of time. Everyone chooses to relax and unwind in their own way!

      • says

        @Megan, Like I said in the article, I agree. It is not about an “all or nothing approach.” I found I had become reliant on the TV for far more hours of the day than I felt I personally should have been. We actually use Netflix for our “tv” as well, and on the days we watch movies, we love it! My husband and I love movies and watch a few a week. Everyone’s family life is different. I hope that if someone reads this and says, “Nope, not us, we’re good!” then that means you are doing really awesome. :) And if someone reads this and goes, “This is what I needed to hear!” then that is also great. :)

  32. Heather Gwinn says

    Our 7 year old daughter has ADHD and would love to watch TV for hours – not gonna happen though! She earns “rings” during the day – these are clear shower curtain rings we painted worth 15 min each. She earns them for doing chores, having a good day at school and so on, they can also be lost though for negative behavior after a warning has been given. Save up 6 to watch a movie or use a few at a time to watch a tv show. I got the idea from the Supernanny show – it works SO well!!!

    • says

      @Heather Gwinn, What a great idea! I am a huge fan of earning media time, especially with kids that need that structure and motivation to behave and accomplish tasks. That is really fantastic.

  33. says

    This is a good article:
    http://www.shenet.org/high/hsacaddept/English/ddayton/Documents/Media/Television%20Addiction%20is%20no%20Mere%20Metaphor.pdf

    Older kids resistant to cutting back may be receptive to learning about what too much TV does to their brains, anxiey levels, etc. A search in Google Scholar for ‘television addiction’ led to a plethora of papers with scary key words like ‘deficient self-regulation,’ ‘childhood obesity,’ and (I found this the worst) ‘reactive apathy.’

    As an addicted adult, I find it helpful to go through periodic tv fasts of a week or so. It reminds me of the other things I do to relax!

  34. Vanessa says

    I have noticed a lot of family and friends that do not watch much TV spend a lot of time on the computer.In my opinion one is just as bad as the other.

    • says

      As with all things, it would depend upon what you are *doing* on the computer. If you’re running a business, researching, improving your mind, etc. that’s quite a bit different than sitting and being entertained — at least in my opinion! :) But there is also plenty of pointless stuff to be done on the computer, too. Or, you can spend too much time doing “productive” things on the computer — to the detriment of your health or family or other priorities. As always, everything should be examined in light of what is best for your individual family and circumstance. And for those who are Christians, in light of what glorifies God.

  35. Jenny says

    It may be difficult, but it IS possible to unplug! I am a SAHM with 3 children 5 and under, and the times they have watched TV at our home (actually, a Netflix selection played on a laptop!) could be counted on one hand – and that was done as a family. If that means overflowing bookcases, enough puzzles to create a new flooring style in the living room, and a matchbox car collection the size of Manhattan, it’s worth it! (We do allow more TV when they visit the grandparents; but, at home, imaginative play and books are SO much better for their minds!) If you’re on the fence, just try unplugging – you won’t regret it!!

  36. says

    My husband and I “unplugged” our lives and we feel super productive! I remember the times sitting infront of the television for a few hours watching nonsense! I decided to unplug my life when my husband deployed to afghanistan. After work, rather than turn on the television, I scrapbooked. Then on the weekends I cooked for the week (which saves a ton of money). You feel more productive! You feel accomplished! And you know what? Time doesn’t just fly by the way it does when you’re a couch potato.

  37. says

    My husband and I have unplugged our lives too. I made this decision when he deployed to Afghanistan. Watching tv made me feel unproductive and certain commercials/shows made me miss my husband. With that said, I decided to scrapbook during the weeknights when I returned home from work. And on the weekends I cooked for the week (which saves a ton of money!!!).

  38. Staci says

    I have to say that this really touched home for me. I usually have my kids watch their shows when I’m cleaning up in the morning and cooking in the evening. We unplugged (cold turkey, btw) today, and it was quite a productive day. I got some whining, but not as bad as I thought. It was so nice to leave the house without having to wait for some show to be over. I’m not cutting TV out completely, but it’s nice to know that we can do a TV Free day and survive!

    • says

      @Staci, That is so great! Even if 9 days out of 10 the TV is on, it’s fantastic to know if you don’t want it on, it doesn’t have to be. Way to go!

  39. says

    My son and I did this yesterday. Because I shut off the TV my son wasn’t as fussy and I was able to get more done in one day that I do sometimes in a week.

    Our only downfall is that my hubby uses TV as a relaxation method when he comes home from work.

    • says

      @Sara Cart, I’m glad it worked for you! Is there any way to have your husband switch his TV watching to once your son is in bed? That way it’s not disrupting what you’ve done all day?

  40. says

    I originally stopped TV because I was a single mom and I could not afford the $65 per month for cable. At the time we lived in Hawai’i and there were so many wonderful things to do, hiking, playing outside, the beach, swimming. When I moved to Seattle and the winters are not as conducive to out door activities; I just did not want to spend the money on cable. I thought books and other activities for the kids where a much better choice.

    Recently we went on vacation at a resort that had every station imaginable, including pay per view movies. I could not believe that there really was literally nothing on that I would want to watch. Not too mention how racy commercials are. Definitely not appropriate for children viewing.

    Well I am married now and can afford television, but we chose to not have it. We own a couple of our favorite kid movies, rent some through Netflix or just do something that we find more interesting.

  41. says

    We must first unplug ourselves. I have been a working mom since my children were 6 weeks old (my oldest is now 22). No cellphones, video games, or texting are aloud on any car trip that will last less than an hour. This allows me as well as the kids to have each others full attention. We talk, sing, laugh, and admit maybe we should talk about this later.