TV and family time
Credit: photo by ralphbijker of flckr

Before my husband and I were married, we decided that we did not need a television to be a part of our home. We didn’t want it to be a negative influence on our children or detract from our family time together. So for years, we didn’t even own a television. I know it sounds primitive, living without TV in this modern era, but I can honestly say I rarely even missed it. I would often remark that I wondered how I ever had time to watch television at all with life as busy as it was.

But after lengthy discussion and consideration, a few months ago we decided that our era of no television had come to an end. For one thing, our kids were getting older. And while I was still concerned about the negative influences of media, I felt like I had protected them from the outside world as long as I could. They were watching TV at grandparents, friends, and other family members’ homes anyway, so I felt like at this point, we were holding out just for the sake of holding out. And then, of course, not having a television was putting a serious damper on my husband’s football watching capability (and, er, ok, mine too). So the decision was made. Our reign of television deprivation was over. We bought a TV.

However, just because we had finally given in to our need for a television, this did not make us any more willing to have our lives dominated and our children negatively influenced by a corded rectangle. Before we ever mounted the thing on the wall, we sat down and made some ground rules for how to coexist peacefully with a television in our home. And three months later, our plan is working great.  I’d like to share it with you how we avoid allowing the TV to control our lives.

We do not eat meals in front of the television. We believe strongly that meal time is family time, a time to talk about our day and reconnect with each other’s lives. Meal time may be the only time in the whole day that we are all together in one room, actively focusing on each other as a family. We were not going to let a television take that away from us. However, to prevent us from setting ourselves up for failure, we instituted the “Exception to the TV/Meal Rule Clause” which says that if a live football event involving  the Saints (my husband’s favorite team) or Alabama (my favorite team and the only one that actually matters) occurs during meal time, we can eat while we watch it. Also, occasionally we have “family movie night” which involves pizza and popcorn, and we allow ourselves to eat in front of the TV for that. But that’s it. All other meals are eaten at the dinner table, and family time remains intact.

We programmed parent filters to prevent the children from watching inappropriate programs. Our satellite service has the wonderful option of passcode protecting mature rated programs. Basically, anything above a PG rating must have a secret code entered to allow the viewing of it. Yes, it can get annoying having to type in those digits every time we want to sit down to an adult program, but it’s worth our peace of mind knowing that our six-year-old is not going to stumble on some sexually explicit scene while I’m in the bathroom. Of course, that filter alone does not protect against all negative content, so we make a conscious effort to not allow the children to watch endlessly without supervision.

We don’t sit down to the television until the work is done. Homework must be finished, the kitchen must be clean, etc. That way, we don’t get involved in a program and neglect the important things.

We don’t surf endlessly. If we sit down to the television and after a trip through the channels don’t find something that we find interesting, we turn it off. We don’t sit for hours on end hoping to stumble on something to entertain us. We find something else to do.

These few little self-imposed rules may not seem like much, or they may seem far too austere to some of you. However, I have found that adhering to them has kept the television from being a dominant and negative force in our family’s lives. And now, I can sit down in front of our big screen and enjoy The Big Bang Theory or watch Alabama win their latest national championship and feel perfectly at peace with our decision to own a television.