Between having 5 children, homeschooling, cooking from scratch and raw ingredients, and still trying to maintain a home and be a good wife, one of the most frequent questions I receive is “How do you find time to do it all?”
Although there are several ways, I have to say, the greatest decision we ever made in regards to our time was getting rid of our TV. We actually got rid of it after JR was born, were without for about 2 years, then got a new one with the intent of entertaining the kids through approved videos only. Over the next 2 years though, we realized that we used the TV, and watched the videos just because they were there. We also began to see that, no matter how wholesome a show we chose, there was always something negative that entered our children’s minds through that show. One video was just wonderful, but then we realized there were a few instances of a negative, disrespectful attitude from a child toward an adult, and toward the end of the show, they slipped in one single curse word. Another show was about as wholesome, moral, and upright as it got, yet, our children still saw smoking and drinking as a part of the background story–and worse, they began to act it out. Thus, we got rid of the TV again.
I have to tell you, the hardest part of getting rid of the television was taking the actual step to do it. As a nation, we have become so incredibly dependent on TV. We get our news from it (half of which is not entirely truthful anyway), and we seek our entertainment and “me-time” from it. We often seek our children’s education from it (Dora teaches Spanish, Sesame Street teaches alphabet, Barney teaches good morals, and Discovery/TLC teaches all sorts of great things, are all reasons I have been given in support of a TV). If you really think about it though, are we using the TV truly to teach our children, or are we really using it as an excuse to keep our children occupied, with the hopes they’ll learn something from it in order to justify the decision?
This was the question I was forced to ask myself, and I realized that, although some good lessons were being learned, overall, the children were being exposed to more negative than I desired, and these negative things were planting “weed seeds” in the little minds I was trying so hard to cultivate properly with seeds of Godly purity and wisdom. Furthermore, I had to ask myself, “Did I really want TLC/Discovery/cartoons teaching my children those critical life lessons in ethics, morals, and foundational skills?” When I put it that way, of course the answer was a resounding “NO!” I began to observe TV in a different light. We would go to a restaurant or doctor’s office with a TV in the background, and I would observe the messages contained in the commercials that were influencing my children. I began to see how the girls on the shows dressed very provacatively and inappropriately, according to what we were trying to teach our children about modesty. I began to witness the way the actors interacted with each other, and what it said about healthy relationships. And I realized that my desire for the children to be educated and entertained by television was a very unwise choice.
Once we tossed the TV, DVD’s, and videos, we suddenly had a great deal more free time available. Although we honestly believed that we watched “very little” television during the week, it was amazing how my time was freed up without out. Obviously, we watched more than we realized. Of course, it meant I suddenly had to get more creative about keeping the children busy throughout the day, and I became pretty solely responsible for their education, but I was OK with that. As time went on, I got better at that.
That all being said, I do not think any and all TV is a sin persay. I do think it is possible to find educational and informative things to watch, and ways in which you can enjoy the movies together. I believe the sin part develops as the dependence develops. Once we had been without it for a while, we subscribed to a very basic online-only Netflix program. For a very minimal fee, we are able to access some excellent documentaries and learning shows. Prior to watching something, I can review everything about that show, why it is rated the way it is, and what other viewers have to say about it. While I have certainly had times of desperation when I put the toddlers in front of an episode of Thomas the train, this is quiet rare and generally reserved for those “bad” days when I just absolutely need to focus on something else for a short spell. While most of our evening family time involves playing a game together, reading a book, or physically playing, about once every month or two, we might sit down as a family and watch a good family movie together. If something negative should pop up, because we are right there with them, we are able to either turn the movie off and/or discuss what is going on. Even then, we must use great caution.
I recently looked through a catalog from a Christian bookstore, and they offered several DVD’s for sale. Since it was in their catalog, I assumed they were relatively wholesome, so I went into my Netflix account, and reserved a couple titles that sounded good. One evening, after the kids were in bed, S and I decided to curl up on the couch and watch one. I was absolutely shocked to find that this Christian-book-store-recommended movie contained messages of divorce, pre-marital sex, curse words, bad attitudes, and seriously mis-guided perspectives on relationships. You must always be on your guard!
Besides the time savings, we have also witnessed many other benefits. They used to have a tendency to beg for TV everytime they were bored. Now, they know life does not revolve around the TV, and rarely ask to watch anything. They have learned to be much more imaginative and creative in their play, and play outdoors regularly. They can also play independently, for hours in some cases, without the constant need to be entertained by someone or something. They are not exposed to advertisements, which means we can easily walk through a toy store without them begging for every item they saw on television commercials. Our decision has helped develop children that are quite content in the life they have, which is absolutely priceless! It also makes it much easier for us as parents to be the primary influence on their beliefs and development, without the distraction or mixed messages received from the TV. At the same time, they know that some shows can be used as a tool to learn. For example, if we are studying some type of animal in science, I can look up an educational film about that animal so the kids can see it in action on the screen.
So there you have it. I encourage everyone–especially Christians–to toss the secular messages of the TV, and just get rid of it. We are called to protect our minds, and more importantly, the minds of our children. Obviously, the older children are, the more difficult that step might be, but then again, the more difficult it is, the more obvious your family’s dependence on the TV will be. If nothing else, I encourage you to take a few TV periods and sit down and watch with your children. But, this time, observe what you are seeing from a Biblical, Christ-standard perspective. Watch for the subliminal messages being passed to your children through behaviors, dress, jokes, and comments. I dare say, you will be very astounded and disheartened at what you find.
If you are interested in more insight, or a more Bible-based perspective on this issue, read a post I wrote some time ago about contaminating our lives.
“Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.” Philippians 4:8