No TV in Our House

 

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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.

Horrific Statistics

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?

Long-Term Effects

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.

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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.

32 thoughts on “No TV in Our House

  • May 18, 2011 at 2:48 pm
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    Great article! Although my home has 2 TVs we don’t have cable, nor anyway to get broadcast television. I completely don’t miss it, but most people look at me like I’m insane – they could “never” not have TV!

    It pains me to watch friends who stick their kids (even newborns!) in front of the TV so they can go do other things without being bothered. Or the friends who are so addicted themselves that they can’t turn the TV off and then yell at their kids not to watch it when they are in the same room and their little eyes just gravitate to the hypnotizing screen. Get out and live life instead of watching actors “live” – much better attitude!

    Reply
    • May 19, 2011 at 7:23 pm
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      I know – you don’t realize how easy it is to live without TV until you’ve been doing it for a while. So nice not being hypnotized! 🙂

      Reply
  • May 18, 2011 at 6:01 pm
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    About three months ago our giant TV broke. I was like, “NOOOOOOOOOOOO! MY LIFE IS OVER!”, but we decided not to get it fixed or get another one because neither I nor the kids could keep from watching it pretty much every second we were home. After three months of no TV whatsoever we have pretty much decided to NEVER GO BACK. There is SO much more time in the day, SO much more to do with the kids, and the kids have to do creative stuff to pass the time away. It’s great!

    Reply
    • May 19, 2011 at 7:25 pm
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      Welcome to the “1%”! 🙂 Kat & I haven’t owned a TV since 2002, so we’re coming up on our 10-year anniversary of NO BOOB TUBE. We’re definitely not going back.

      Reply
  • May 18, 2011 at 6:48 pm
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    One time I went an entire year without a TV. My daughter was getting out of control wanting to watch it all the time and not getting homework or chores done. So the TV went. I expected a great deal of confusion and tantruming for a long time but instead what happened was she threw a fit the first day, the second day she mopped and the third day… she suddenly decided to pick up the violin she gave up two years before. She started to draw and paint again. She went out to play with her friends more and rode her bike more and swam more.

    Did she sometimes sneak over to a friends house to watch a little TV? Yes. But mostly then they wanted to play.

    What I didn’t expect is that when people asked me if I’d seen some show on the TV and I said I didn’t have one people were upset and outraged! I got offered free TVs left and right. Honestly I don’t know why anyone would have need to buy one.

    Most people I talked to had 2-4 TVs in their houses!!!!!!

    Eventually I wanted to work out to videos and caved and accepted one of these offers for a TV. However, I found it interesting that once we got the TV back most of the time even when she turned the TV on she seldom watched it. She would leave it on but go upstairs to play music or be talking on the phone etc.

    I agree, it is important to have our kids exercise their muscles and minds and learn life skills. In the event of some catastrophic event there would be no TV but there would certainly be a need to use those skills to survive. Not to mention it is more fun!

    Reply
  • May 19, 2011 at 12:28 am
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    Bravo! I am exactly the same way! We haven’t had a TV for 5 years and plan to keep it that way. My kiddo is so much fun, why would you want to sit and watch tv when you can play? What we do enjoy a lot together is watching fun music videos and dancing together. He gets such a kick out of rhythm and beats.

    Reply
    • May 19, 2011 at 7:28 pm
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      Yeah! That’s about the only thing we’ll do with a screen with our girl too. She LOVES Black Eyed Peas – so we’ll pull up a YouTube clip of a song, and pump it over the stereo – she loves to dance too.

      Reply
  • May 19, 2011 at 4:59 am
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    Great article! The harsh reality that my kids were spending too much time on screens became abundantly clear to me when they would start being rude to me, would start fighting a lot, and anytime I told them to get off TV or computer games I would hear moans of “But there’s nothing to doooooo!” When a 6 year old child doesn’t feel they can make it through a 20 minute car ride without a computer game, there’s something wrong. When a child can’t quickly come up with something of their own to do or play or create when they have free time, there’s something wrong. I don’t want to feel I’ve stunted their ability to create, to play, to interact.

    We have a TV, but recently got rid of cable and I can’t say I’ve missed it one bit. I watch virtually no television myself and haven’t for years, and my kids would tend to watch too much unless my husband or I intervened. I do love my movies and rely on Netflix for a movie or two with my honey on the weekend. It is interesting how often people ask me about if I’ve seen such and such show, and are surprised that I watch virtually no TV. I have to admit that sometimes I’ll think some of those shows sound entertaining, but my life is very full, and I just don’t have the time or inclination particularly to get sucked into serial TV. Even with no cable, these days it can be a challenge sometimes to keep the kids off TV or movies or video games or computer when we’re busy or distracted. But the girls are now very familiar with “NO SCREENS”, and it’s getting better.

    I remember there was a point when I was a kid that my sister and I used to watch TV for hours unless my mom forced us off. At one point, the TV broke and Mom moved it out into the garage because she couldn’t fix it. We didn’t have TV for a long time, years if I remember right. I later found out of course that the TV was never even broken. I appreciate that my mom did that, even now. I’d much rather be involved in life. The things that I remember with such pleasure from my childhood are all things I did, not the tv shows.

    Reply
    • May 19, 2011 at 7:29 pm
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      I love the “yep…TV’s broken…can’t fix it!” solution!! Moms are so brilliant sometimes, and we don’t really appreciate it until we have to come up with these cunning solutions ourselves!

      Reply
  • May 19, 2011 at 8:32 pm
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    I love your statistical approach to this issue. Too often, we see opinion pieces with no data! Anyway, I am a early baby-boomer and grew up mostly without TV. Our neighbors had one, and one of the few tantrums I recall throwing was when my mother came across the street to bring me home – in the middle of a program! Among other things, the program becomes an alternate reality for that period of time. So even if something important is going on in “the real world,” it often takes a back seat to following the story line on the screen.

    Reply
  • May 19, 2011 at 8:39 pm
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    We also have no TV and have no plans to get one. There is nothing more useless I can imagine for my home. Besides the waste of space and energy, I consider TV’s to do far more harm than good for the exact reasons you state.

    We have no children, but like you, we try to spend our time outdoors when we aren’t working – and when outdoors isn’t possible there are plenty of more active and constructive options than television! Movies are quite different in my opinion, they have a start and an end, and they aren’t an addictive endless alternate reality of spectatorism.

    Reply
    • May 20, 2011 at 7:42 pm
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      I agree – movies are indeed a different kettle of fish, for the reason you mentioned. They start and they end, and are as valid as watching a play or watching a musical, in terms of entertainment – provided also not taken to excess.

      I guess that’s the next one to be concerned with though – as Netflix does offer the option to be constantly glued — on a variety of devices — to a constant stream of movies.

      Reply
  • June 8, 2011 at 3:13 pm
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    Thank you for sharing those statistics. We have a TV but do not have cable or local broadcasting. Instead we have movies and most of them are educational. I started our getting a speech pathology video to help my son who was slow to talk. It gave mouth exercises and taught beginning sigh language. It was very effective. We have since expanded our collection to Leap Frog’s Letters, words, numbers and math. Preschool Prep’s letters, colors, shapes and sight words. We have cartoons like Cars, Dora and Thomas but my kids seem more than happy to play while its on.
    As much as I would like to give all of my time with them and educating them myself, I just don’t have the attention units. I am taking online classes and need the time to myself. Fortunately most of our day is spent learning new things. My son (4) is in soccer and we love to practice. We also have 3 neighbor boys whom my kids love to play with. So while I am not willing to completely go without movies. This is a good reminder that there really is a world outside that is so much more entertaining and is just waiting to be explored.

    Reply
    • June 8, 2011 at 3:39 pm
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      “This is a good reminder that there really is a world outside that is so much more entertaining and is just waiting to be explored.”

      ABSOLUTELY AGREED!

      And I do agree with you as well that there is a SIGNIFICANT difference between network TV, and a learning video which has a specific purpose. ESPECIALLY if you’re sitting there with the child, going through the video with them.

      Heck, I’ve been using YouTube videos to teach my daughter the names of all sorts of animals — we see an “armadillo” while reading “Good Night Gorilla” and then log on and see videos of armadillos. She learns them in a snap, and was the only 16 month old I knew who could say “armadillo”

      So, I’m definitely not knocking video as a whole — though I think network TV is never going to find a place in my house. 🙂
      Tad recently posted…Her First Horsie RideMy Profile

      Reply
  • July 21, 2011 at 6:18 am
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    We have two tv sets – but no antenna or digital tv connection. And I totally plan to keep it that way. I haven’t watched actual TV myself in years except a few bits here and there (enough to make me realise what I’m NOT missing!)

    However, I have no problem with DVDs. My almost two year old definitely interacts with his favourites and does learn words from them. He loves playing outside but on a cold rainy day that isn’t really an option. Agree though that a lot of kid’s movies are a bit scary in parts. Even Thomas the Tank engine has scary parts and I do see my son reacting to them. But I also see his lovely smile when Thomas comes on the screen. All things in moderation I reckon.

    Reply
    • July 21, 2011 at 2:07 pm
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      My daughter is totally in love with Thomas the choo choo. She’s convinced I WORK on a choo choo, because that’s where I go when I’m going to work. So – we do indeed watch Thomas every so often. Whenever we do it, though, it’s something we’re doing together – not something I use to distract her whilst I do something else. I think that’s the difference between the way you & I approach movies and the way others do.

      Reply
  • September 20, 2011 at 12:58 am
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    We finally put the TV in the basement in my house about a month ago and covered it with a blanket. The impetus was a tear-filled walk. Recognizing that “What turns it on, turns it off” we just kept walking until it “ran out.” An hour later, our daughter was bright and chipper. The only way to combat introversion that was this intense was to simply put away the tv and ipad for a while.

    My daughter has responded very well and has taken up several new hobbies, including making bead necklaces. She even sneered when one of her friends mentioned a show. “I don’t watch TV!” There’s hope…

    Reply
  • November 1, 2011 at 9:48 pm
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    We really limit TV in our house. And while my daughter does love the treat of getting to watch a movie, she would totally rather spend time with dad. So just keep being awesome parents and your kids will always pick you first.

    Reply
  • January 9, 2012 at 2:09 am
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    I don’t have a TV but watch the ocassional movie through an over head projector, which is at least a more friendly form of transmission than the micro flickers of a low (but some) radiation TV screen. But what about that other monster, the home computer. My son has surely found out about those!

    Reply
  • January 26, 2012 at 4:52 am
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    When I stopped watching network TV approximately 10 years ago, I went through withdrawl symptoms. I actually would get spooked in my own house if the TV wasn’t on in the background – even if I wasn’t watching it. I had grown up with the TV on almost all the time for 25 years! It took about 6 months to get used to it and stop picking up the remote control expecting to turn on the TV for no reason. I found myself approximately 50% more productive without it. When I got married later and my husband insisted on TV, I found myself getting extremely annoyed with having my attention commandeered against my will, and looking at my watch to find 30 minutes had passed with me barely noticing it. So, it’s done and gone – we only watch movies on planned occasions. But it’s just such a massive time waster, totally agreed.

    Reply
  • January 27, 2012 at 12:51 pm
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    Oh noes, evil technology, we’re all gonna die, you may as well be amish.

    Reply
    • January 27, 2012 at 2:54 pm
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      Now that would really be something – an Amish Linux Sysadmin. 🙂

      No, “evil technology” is not in the LEAST what the point of this article was, or the point of keeping my kids off of network TV. We’ve got our tablets that the kids play with, our smartphones, and between work & personal I think we’ve got 6 laptops in the house. So, we’re not lacking in technology.

      1950s Family Watching TV
      Besides, I wouldn’t exactly call watching network TV “high tech”. I think all of us have had enough experience with TV over the last 70 years or so to see that zoning kids out in front of TV instead of actively parenting them is not necessarily the best use of their very valuable childhood time.

      Reply
  • January 27, 2012 at 6:50 pm
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    Hi Tad, I love this! Thanks! I love hearing all the good responses as well. Since I have lived and worked at Mojave Academy since my kids were born (and Mojave has a no TV etc rule with the students) I have never had a TV in my house since the kids have been born. I have heard parents say that they need a TV to distract their kids to get work done, but having raised them from the start this way, they don’t expect their entertainment to come in a package – they find ways to entertain themselves. My youngest is can create and play by herself for hours and not once say she’s bored. I have never had a need to stick either of them in front of a TV. I do have lots of outdoor space to play, which is great. I myself will watch a movie now and again with my husband on the laptop, but more often then not, we talk about it and never do it. We are truly a house without the electronic entertainment, and are a very happy family.

    Reply
  • March 8, 2012 at 8:17 am
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    We haven’t been watcing TV for about 5 years now too. We moved into this house and put the TV upstairs in the bonus room. We just watch dvd’s on it and on our pull-down screen in the livingroom. I missed watching tv with my hubby after the kids were in bed a little in the first couple of years, but now I don’t really. He spends a lot of time watching Utube though. I wish the kids would see him reading more. They like to spend an hour a day playing Wizard 101. I worry about them getting so excited about that, but at least it’s interactive. But then it seems actually more ‘addicting’ in the sense that you keep having to come back to it. My 11 year old grew out of a different online game called Club Penguin though, so I know she’ll outgrow this one. But what’ll be next? She’s decided to spend her hard-earned and saved money on a $9 monthly charge now tonight with this Wizard 101! Yikes! Is this just the way things will become with tweens and teens more and more so now?

    Reply
  • April 25, 2012 at 9:38 pm
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    I am a Scientologist myself, and interestingly, ever since I have started attending Church more frequently when I was 14 (I am 15 currently), I began watching television so infrequently that I would only do so on Fridays for only 30 minutes at a time. I do, however, watch philosophically profound anime movies and deep anime series with a start and an end.

    I hope nobody chastises me for doing so. I have actually found that watching certain anime series such as “Ghost in the Shell” has given me a greater appreciation of life. Furthermore, by watching some animes, I have been introduced to a good number of melodious songs. I totally respect LRH’s viewpoint on television, and I agree with the fact that much of it is little more than modern hypnotism, although for the sake of my viewpoint, it is important to acknowledge that LRH was totally unaware of animes during his time. In fact, anime has only exploded into the American market perhaps around 2000. Of course, as I said earlier, I DO NOT watch seemingly endless series with shallow themes such as Naruto, Inuyasha, and Bleach. Then again as the old adage goes, “nothing is true until you have observed it yourself.”

    All in all, I agree with the majority of this article. Most North American shows are nothing more than initiation rites into the dangerous game of corporate competition, in which the viewer is merely a soulless pawn loved only as a positive TV rating statistic.

    Hence, I can totally understand why it can be so frustrating when people become transfixed whenever a person responds, “I don’t watch television or play video games. I prefer board games instead.” One time at my school, I told a girl that I don’t play video games at all and that I prefer intellectually challenging Eurogames (any kind of board game, particularly with reference to non-mainstream board games, in which the main objective is to win by acquiring more points than the other players through the development of one’s economy, combos, cards etc.) and suddenly, as if she were talking to a Martian, she gasps and exclaims, “YOU DON’T PLAY VIDEO GAMES???!!! ONLY CARD GAMES AND BOARD GAMES?!” Predictably, she then asked me if I have ever heard of some random, trivial anime series, a video game series and crap like that for around 30 minutes straight, and told me I was a very unusual type of person.

    Sometimes, that’s why I have some trouble associating with the majority of students in my school. It seems as if many of them are so caught up with mainstream culture that they seem like a flock of sheep that swerves to and fro from one evanescent “pop idol” to another. Oh well, I guess that’s why I have other Scientologist friends…

    Reply
  • May 17, 2012 at 5:01 pm
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    I LOVE your site and I recognize that shot of wonderful Huntley Meadows, took my kids there a lot to see herons, snapping turtles, red-shouldered blackbirds and the wonderful dragon flies that swarm there in warm weather. It’s one of the things I miss most about northern Virginia! Absolutely sitting in front of the television is a static activity that contributes nothing and prevents children from learning, doing and growing – sitting there passively observing nothing and doing nothing. Kids need to be doing and learning and developing, not sitting there, stagnating.

    Reply
  • December 27, 2012 at 9:21 pm
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    Great article, LOVE it!!

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  • December 28, 2012 at 12:49 pm
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    Reading all this is making me feel awful that I still have one in the house….

    Time to go, idiot box!

    Reply
  • February 20, 2015 at 2:25 am
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    I believe cutting TV out of your life is a bit knee jerk. It can be way over done, and I acknowledge that too much TV is very detrimental. But there are very entertaining and educational TV shows that my kids watch. My wife and I are big Walking Dead and Game of Thrones fans and we watch TV at night when the kids are in bed. The kids watch TV during the day, they play to it, dance to it and even learn from it. Our involvement with our kids is constant with regards to their development and exposure to life’s outside world. Except for a block a day where we need to kids to be somewhat self entertained the TV is mostly just on for backround noise.

    I just don’t know that cutting TV out completely or limiting it to just a nightly laptop screen is really necessary to follow LRH’s comment about not being effect or getting hypnotized by it. I think it depends on how you use it. The news, the trash TV and the chaos merchants will sell a terrible world via the Cable line, but if you know that, you won’t be the adverse affect of it.

    Just my 2 cents.

    Reply
  • March 31, 2015 at 1:41 pm
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    We’re the same. Although we do have a small TV so I can do WiiFit in the evenings, we seldom watch any DVDs on it. Very very rarely there is an event (like the football grand final, olympics opening ceremony etc) that might see it turned on once a year or so while I’m around. I definitely see the difference in terms of infighting and boredom when it’s on, as it was while we were on holidays a few weeks ago. My second child just can’t do without it when it’s been on. I don’t miss it and it’s better for me not to be addicted to those enormous series. I’d never get anything done! At the end of the day I usually have one small series I’ll watch on the laptop myself a couple of times a week on catchup. That’s pretty much it.

    Reply

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