We don’t have cable TV in our house, and have no plans to get it. We have three kids to raise now, but even at the beginning of our marriage back before “cable cutting” was even a thing, we’d decided on a clean break with the land of network television. For us, the reasons are bountiful – and having a TV just makes no sense. And apparently, per a study by Cal State Northridge on the effects of TV, the fact that I don’t have a TV makes my household different from 99 percent of American households.
I was originally planning to write a verbose post to describe why it is that we don’t have a TV, but some of these statistics from the above-linked study tell a pretty punchy picture:
Percentage of households that possess at least one television: 99
Number of TV sets in the average U.S. household: 2.24
Percentage of U.S. homes with three or more TV sets: 66
Number of hours per day that TV is on in an average U.S. home: 6 hours, 47 minutes
Percentage of Americans that regularly watch television while eating dinner: 66
Number of hours of TV watched annually by Americans: 250 billion
Value of that time assuming an average wage of S5/hour: S1.25 trillion
Percentage of Americans who pay for cable TV: 56
Number of videos rented daily in the U.S.: 6 million
Number of public library items checked out daily: 3 million
Percentage of Americans who say they watch too much TV: 49
So, assuming many of the people reading this post are American, that means at least 49 percent of you already say you are watching too much TV. So I don’t need to preach too much to the choir. But in case you’re a parent, and are part of that 51 percent, the other stats regarding children are a bit more grisly:
Number of minutes per week that parents spend in meaningful conversation with their children: 3.5
Number of minutes per week that the average child watches television: 1,680
Percentage of day care centers that use TV during a typical day: 70
Percentage of parents who would like to limit their children’s TV watching: 73
Percentage of 4-6 year-olds who, when asked to choose between watching TV and spending time with their fathers, preferred television: 54
Hours per year the average American youth spends in school: 900 hours
Hours per year the average American youth watches television: 1500 hours
I think those stats pretty well speak for themselves. If I let my kids grow up glued to TV, I am risking being one of the majority of families where the kids would rather spend time watching TV than spending time with their daddy.
Why We Don’t Like TV
And above & beyond the stats above, we started seeing negative effects of TV with our first-born girl, whenever our she’s been in front of a TV:
She gets nightmares. Even movies like Shrek, Harry Potter, Cars, etc – all have bad guys and people that get hurt, fall down, etc, etc. As a result, I always know when she’s been watching TV at daycare – as at night I have to deal with her waking up screaming about a “horsey falling down” or a car crashing or some other thing that she saw on what some people would term to be a harmless kids movie. NOT COOL.
She throws tantrums. I think just about every parent has had to deal with what happens when a kid is glued to the TV and you then attempt to get them to do anything else. You get nasty and unpleasant behaviour. We experience that.
She makes no progress. When we spend the evening playing with our daughter, reading books, running around outside & pointing out birds – she gets smarter by the day, vocabulary explodes, ability to interact and control her environment increases, and ability to deal with others improves. In front of a TV, she just becomes more individuated, and doesn’t get anywhere. Why waste time in what is the most important developmental phase of a kid?
L. Ron Hubbard wasn’t too kind when speaking of television & its effects on society. Specifically:
“We live in an era of ‘civilization’ where it has become general not to care what is going on. The first dynamic* ‘nothing to do with me’ attitude is the product of drugs, TV and psychiatrists and psychologists who have perverted education and produced a criminal society wherein the individual is supposed to be the effect of everything, incapable of handling his environment.” — LRH (1982)
*First Dynamic: In Scientology, This is the effort to survive as an individual, to be an individual. It includes one’s own body and one’s own mind. It is the effort to attain the highest level of survival for the longest possible time for self. See this video for a concise explanation.
“Spectatorism is very great in our modern society. Because some people cannot conceive of causing[italicized] anything, they just watch it. They don’t do[italicized] anything. They are not PARTICIPANTS. They are spectators. You see this in magazines. Hee hee hee articles about how odd this is or that is. No understanding of it. It’s just odd and one watches it in a detached sort of way. Below this is somebody who doesn’t even notice. Such a person has to come up scale just to be a spectator.” — LRH (1969)
I don’t want my kids to grow up to be spectators, living life only for themselves, and not really participating in making the world a better place for their families and for others.
As such, my wife and I have just deleted the TV set from our house, and have no plans to get one. Our living room is a play room, and has books, toys, coloring books, blocks, activities and places to play & jump around.
But we spend a minimum of time there. Instead, we try to spend a maximum of time outside, experiencing the world.
Am I saying I never watch any movies? No. But any movies I do watch, I’ll watch snuggled in bed with my wife, after the kids are asleep, with a little Netflix on a laptop. But daytime is for work or activities and for interaction with the kids.
And if, by the age of 4-6 my kids would still rather go watch TV then play with me – well – I’ll bet they won’t.