Whether or Not to Watch Television

Here’s a good question that we receive every now and then, and it takes some explaining: “What are your thoughts on TV?” We have some good thoughts on this, and it deserves a blog posting.

Watching television begs the question for us: Aren’t there better things to do?

Here’s a blog comment from Abby a couple weeks ago:

What is your view on children watching TV? I wasn’t sure if you guys have one or if you watch the news and such via the internet. I attended a homeschool conference a few years ago where we were strongly encouraged to throw it out. We have one in the sitting room (nowhere else)and do limit the time (and the programs) but my 5 do watch some (the oldest is 11). I just wondered how you guys managed this? If it is too personal, please just ignore my comment, I just wondered.

Abby, this is a great question, and it’s not too personal at all. We don’t do television, and people sometimes think we’re from an alien planet because of it. We don’t think we’re missing much. Let me tell you our story.

In 1996, my family (just 5 children at the time) gave up television for Lent. It wasn’t a legalistic conviction at all, just something to give up in the 40 days leading up to Easter. In those 40 days, we substituted our time that we regularly spent in front of the tube with family activities like reading. I read To Kill a Mockingbird and thoroughly enjoyed the time. After Easter came, we thought to ourselves, “Do we really want the tube back in our living room?” We decided no, and it hasn’t been back since.

Every once in a while we’re tempted to go back. When traveling, we’ll click on the tube for convenience sake. Soon all the kids are crowded around the TV watching some brainless show about nothing. Even if it is an educational show, we ask ourselves what the kids could have been doing in its stead. When on the road, our children are much more apt to hang at the pool than sit in front of the TV.

When we were featured on TLC in 2007, we were persuaded to get a satellite television set up. We’re thankful we had a 30-day money-back guarantee. We watched our show when it debuted (that’s why we got the thing in the first place), but then thought maybe we could find wholesome and educational shows to watch, perhaps keep the subscription. We spent so much time trying to weed through the junk, and even when the good programming was on, commercials would inevitably disturb us.

Besides, just like with the hotel rooms, we wondered, “What are our children missing?” We have a 6.5 acre piece of property with a creek, a zip line, two trampolines, 7 or 8 cats, playground, etc., etc. My boys have taken over my garage and tools, constantly building something. “Dad, look what I built!” is center of discussion, not “Dad, you know what they built on TV?” Other kids are into computer programming, video editing, debate prep. The little ones draw and color like crazy. Conversation is loud and robust, no one at loss for a discussion about whatever exciting thing is going on at the moment.

Really, are we so strange because we don’t watch the tube? I kind of like our strangeness.

Here’s one reason I go back to the idea of watching television: research. When a joke is made about a popular television show, we really have no idea what the joke is about. I used to love to follow NFL football, but now going to a Super Bowl party is my only chance. Today, with YouTube and iTunes downloads, there isn’t any pertinent information that we couldn’t retrieve if we really wanted to.

But, ultimately, there isn’t much that grabs our attention or justifies our time. Our lives are way too busy for TV. Is there really anything we’re missing out on? These are our thoughts, but we would love to hear yours. Please comment!

About Chris & Wendy Jeub

The Jeub Family live in Monument, Colorado. They encourage couples to love God and love one another, building an atmosphere of love in their homes.

  • Jenn hoskins

    Do you do dvds? We dont have cable but we do use dvds. I sometimes wish we didn’t have tv at all and we have done without it for extended periods of time but there are times nothing would get done without a dora the explorer dvd on for the little ones!
    We just got bck from vacation with full tv there and it was awful, I feel like we need to detox!
    we just found out about which is like a christian netflix and its great! A lot of the stuff from vision forum and way of the master are available, its awesome!

  • Momto12

    We also got rid of the tv several years ago but we have a projector and big screen for movies! I tell ya it is an addiction – I am about to stop the movies too because every night it’s “what movie are we watching tonight” maybe we will go to weekly movie night or something!

  • Lisa

    We do not have tv anymore. We are college students with a family so we set up our living room with desks and computers for school. If we want to watch something we watch it on the computer if we have time. We have a playground right outside our house since we live in family housing and our daughter just plays with the neighborhood kids for hours at at time. I prefer her creativity to sitting watching tv shows. This summer we house sat for someone and they had 5 tvs!! We wasted hours at a time and then thought what did we just learn or take from that. I don’t think you are missing anything. I sometimes miss watching the news but I can just go online and read it.

  • Sara

    We just got rid of TV again about a month ago- my inlaws wanted us to get it so when they came to visit they would be able to watch- so they paid for everything. I finally told my husband how silly it was that we still had it cause we don’t need to be watching it. I do have a couple shows I am into now that I can watch on the internet. And we do have netflix but can monitor what the kids watch through that and the DVD’s they check out at the library!! We dont have a big house or lots of acerage- so we get a little bored when the weather turns cold! I don’t mind at all- especially since the kids have stopped watching the real TV I don’t get infomercials coming from my kids trying to tell me I need to try oxyclean…

  • Chelsea

    We do not have TV either anymore. Our little one is 9 months right now, and we even notice that when a TV comes on, HE would even stop his play to watch it. Plus, everything that comes on nowadays is just some sort of filth or another. It wasn’t worth it to our family to have it in our home.

  • Michelle

    We own a television. ONE television. We have only basic cable, and the TIVO (long story…) records programs like NOVA and Nature off of PBS. When do I let my four watch TV? The general rule is “unless it’s raining or someone’s sick on the sofa, no TV.” Invariably, if I make an exception to that, I’m sorry afterward. I, too, miss out on “common culture” jokes – but that’s ok with me. Most of common culture is nothing in which I want to participate. I even stopped watching gymnastics on TV – a sport I love – because the announcers are SO annoying that I simply can’t stand it. So… I’m with you!

  • Chris & Wendy

    Great comments, everyone! We relate a lot. But, golly, are there any TV enthusiasts reading this post? I hope they don’t feel ganged up on. My last question is an honest one, and I would love to hear what they think.

  • Chris & Wendy

    Ha! I posted at almost the exact same time as Michelle. Thanks Michelle!

  • Allison

    Hey there Jeubs,
    Just on a side note- eventhough we haven’t met in person, I feel like you guys are the closest to how we function irl than anyone we know!
    Now- about this subject:
    We have TV’s in our home, but no cable, no dish, not even rabbit ear antennas…so, all that is available are the dvds or vhs that we own, rent, or borrow from the library. We also love home videos, but are just now converting them from vhs to dvd. Our tv time is limited to “Friday fun nights” and sick children time. We have never in our 19 years of marriage had any of the above means for programming, so our kids don’t miss it. What we have done lately is not replace old tvs with new ones when they started breaking…so it probably won’t be too long til we only use computer screens for the occasional dvd time.
    I am already getting annoyed at the commercials that are starting to begin each of the videos on youtube and such… such a waste of time. Thanks for your testimony and please keep on keeping on!

  • Mary Lou

    We have satellite, but how it irks me to pay the bill every month! We do enjoy Fox News, my son LOVES to watch football (and play it), and I really enjoy cooking shows while I fold laundry. It inspires me be a little more creative with meals (and, yes, I have Wendy’s cookbook ;)). But, if it were only up to me I would get rid of the satellite and only watch dvd’s or rented movies occasionally. Unfortunately, it isn’t only up to me. Maybe I’ll be able to persuade the gang to take a temporary break, but for now, I have to use discretion – and lots of will power!

  • Dan

    When we talk about TV we have to talk about two aspects. Is it a wise use of time? And, is it a wise use of money? Over the last 10 years pay-TV has increased in price by 4% per year, which is well over the rate of inflation. What many people don’t realize is that since the advent of digital TV that free digital broadcast TV often times provides more (and better) channels than basic cable (better picture quality also). So, if you still want to watch some TV think antenna first. In Monument I get 20 English language digital channels (12 from C.S. and 8 from Denver)and KWHS channel 51 from the Springs in analog.

    There was a period of my life where I only watched about a half hour of broadcast TV per month, and then rented one movie per month. It wasn’t like I didn’t have plenty to do, and it was a better use of my time. :-)

  • Debbie

    At first, we gave up one show during Lent and replaced it by praying the Rosary. That was amazing! Instead of watching meaningless TV, we spent that time walking through the life of Jesus!
    We greatly reduced our TV after that. Then we moved, had no TV reception or money for cable, so now we just use the TV for DVDs…we do watch educational DVDs and have a family movie night and hubby and I watch movies for our date night.
    When we travel we have that same temptation to lose ourselves in TV…but mostly we’ve been shocked at the length of commercials and what will be in those commercials during a “family” TV program. Even family TV isn’t what I remember from growing up…there’s a lot of disrespect in the TV families of today, lots of make up on very young girls, and dating begins too early for my taste. Too much sexualization and commercialization for us.

  • Melissa McKimmey

    For a long time I LOVED TV. Seriously,I watched a lot of it. I also read and did other things, but our TV was always on, even as background. A few months a got we got rid of the satellite and switched to Netflix. I love it. The toddler can watch Dora still, but it ends after one episode, so you have to make the choice to give them more TV, rather than just leave it on. We watch older TV series together, the husband and I, and it’s a nice bonding time. The TV is only on for about an hour in the evening. I only watch things I really want to now, like the new season of Dexter. I also watch TV at the gym, which can be a nice reward. I think TV is neutral, neither good nor bad. It’s what you do with it that matters.

  • sandra

    We have one but I don’t really like tv nor watch it that much.I use it mainly for the weather channel.I keep it off during the day.Most ppl find that odd but I can’t stand the noise of it.I like the peace I get when it’s off.I like real conversation,reading or just being on the net.I would just as soon we didn’t have one,but my husb. likes it.It doesn’t even get turned on till he gets home.He likes the Speed channel,but personally,I think tv is just too expensive to fool with anymore.
    I will watch the big family shows and the Duggar’s show on tues nights,but that’s about it.

  • Abby

    Whoa I was slow off the mark this time…. thank you for answering my question :)

    We only have the one TV, and are standing firm on our rule that there will not be televisions in any of the kids bedrooms ever. I have heard some extreme views in the past, and maybe the TV is my weakness more than the families. I do have a couple of comedy shows I enjoy watching when I’m sure there are better things I could do with my time. But I have got alot better.

    We don’t have a set limit per day as such (for example one hour a day), but I know when it’s getting excessive. We do not watch every evening-but I am guilty of putting the kids in front of a cartoon in the morning while I get sorted for the day. It’s easy but it’s bad of me :( I must work on this.

    We don’t have as much land as the Jeubs (nowhere near sadly :) ) but we still make good use of our back yard for family games rather than the TV after school and such is done. The kids have hobbies too and we do enjoy the occasional board game (Monopoly has “gone missing” because I can’t stand it). Sometimes though, when the weather is awful and we are tired after a long day, it is nice to relax on the couch as a family for an hour or so. Quite often my children will read books instead of paying proper attention to the TV. If they happen to see something inappropriate we discuss it and make sure they know what is acceptable and what’s not.

    What I cannot stand is commercials. They drive me absolutely CRAZY! There are so many-I have travelled overseas and we are literally the worst country for this! My old trick when my oldest was little (He is 11 – so he is justabout old enough to remember the good old fashioned VCR :) ) was to record what I wanted to watch and what he liked and play it later to fast forward the commercials. It worked in that he didn’t want every toy under the sun. We do own DVDs and have occassional movie nights – we are big Disney fans in this house.

    We also keep ours off in the day. Some of my children are homeschooled and some go to school, so there is no TV in the school day. It is on first thing as I mentioned and sometimes in the evening.

    We never did playstation or such either. Not so much TV I know but just as time wasting potentially and unsuitable. We never allowed playstation xbox nintendo until we were (extremely generously) given a nintendo wii for christmas. We keep a rule on this by playing as a family only and our games are very active – it is surprisingly fun to have a game of doubles tennis inside when its raining and not risk smashing anything) We also don’t use this everyday.

    Oops, this was a long reply! :) I don’t know if I will ever be able to unplug the TV totally but I completely agree that there are much better things to do and we certainly do our best :)

  • Abby

    do I count as a television enthusiast? Oh dear, I probably sound like I am…..

    I came on again to say I love To Kill A Mocking Bird! It’s my favorite book and we love the movie but the book is better. Thank you for your post

  • natalie

    I agree that zero tv is the ideal. However we have a tv in the living room with an antenna. We get abc, nbc, fox, cbs, and three pbs channels, one of which is only educational kids programming. We also have a small tv in the kids room that has no channels but has a vcr and movies that I consider to be good. Here is my honest question, I have two kids ages two and three and often babysit. Without tv, how am I supposed to make lunch without five or six helpers, make an important phone call, shower, etc? You bet I use it as a babysitter. Not often, of course, but what if unexpected company is coming and I have thirty minutes to clean? Movie. What are some non tv alternatives to keeping kids occupied when I have to do something quickly without them? Suggestions?

  • Joy Groblebe

    We actually are a TV family…directv, dvr, the whole deal. We watch and follow a lot of sports and do so as a family. Our kids are younger, but we limit their time. They mostly watch movies on dvd or vhs anyway. They got a wii for Christmas last year and that is a huge hit. On a normal school week I’d say they watch TV or play wii for an hour or so a day. It’s good downtime for them after a 9 hour school day. We also are blessed with acreage and the kids enjoy being outside – the trampoline is a huge hit. Art projects reign supreme at our house and playing “kitchen” takes up a good portion of everyday. Like anything – moderation is key. I’ll be honest – as a work at home mom, if it wasn’t for Baby Einstein some days I wouldn’t get anything done! :)

  • Abby

    I think Joy has nailed it-moderation is the key I agree- we love the Wii but limit the time.

    Natalie I sometimes give my kids a challenge to do if I need to leave to something quickly for a while. As I mentioned above TV is not on in the school day, so I have a box of arts and crafts supplies I often get out if I have to leave them alone and tell them to make something. If you can handle dissruption and a bit of mess, I sometimes say something like “whilst I make lunch, build a house out of the furniture” – I return to find some kind of hide-away built out of the couch cushions, coffee table and a sheet. It doesn’t really matter what it is, just some kind of game/challenge so they know what they can do to occupy themselves whilst I do something.

  • Nicole

    Haha, no, there’s not much you’re missing out on! We’ve got the option of watching TV pretty much whenever as long as it’s not too distracting to those of us doing schoolwork (this coming from a teen with a short attention [to math] span). I don’t even remember the last time we watched, unless you count Grandpa turning on FOX news and Glenn Beck a couple of times last week or us watching movies every now and then. No TV seems like a pretty good choice to me.

  • Barb

    Well, I guess I’m about the only person who allows their children to watch television. My kids go to public school and one is in college now. They are great kids. I think some shows are awful and I don’t even watch them. My kids were raised in the church and they’ve never been in trouble.

    I watch a lot of the cooking channel – TLC (of course), news and the history channel. I don’t regret letting my kids watch. I don’t think its wrong from anybody to limit or not let them watch anything at all. It’s everyone’s individual choice.

    I enjoy reading your blog and I’ve recently discovered the Bates Family blog also. Keep up the good work!

  • Kristy Quinn

    We have a tv but no cable or satellite. Believe it or not, I am thankful for the days we had cable, although I can say we would never go back. Once upon a time, we didn’t have any healthy godfearing people around us. I will never forget the day that I saw a preview for a show about a crazy woman that was pregnant with her 16th biological child. We were in shock! All of us sat around the tv waiting to see who had lost their mind. 😉 LOL As you already know, that was the Duggars. The Holy Spirit worked through that show for my family. We have never been the same. I, as a woman have never been the same. I had been a professional singer and people ridiculed me when I got pregnant again. After watching Michelle and Jim Bob, suddenly people judging me about having our third child wasn’t anything to deal with. That family’s testimony blessed myself, my husband, and my eldest daughter in many ways and we will always be grateful. Now however, we keep the tv off. We have other things we’d rather do. When we want to watch tv, we rent something suitable. There’s so much junk on tv. Even the commercials during football are full of things we don’t want our girls exposed to. It was getting so bad that during Halloween season, we couldn’t even watch the cooking channel without it frightening our children. It just isn’t worth it to us.

  • Roxanne

    Well, I just wanted to chime in my 2 cents! I agree that tv is a huge distraction. It’s all about feeding negative appetites. But I’ve recently thought about how we can watch documentaries or biographies in a fraction of the time as compared to reading. Not all of my kids read and I do not have time to read everything. But some peoples lives and testimonies are very inspiring. These things can be a huge blessing to learn. Maybe once every one or two weeks. Plus, there are videos that show us places on earth that we would probably never visit or learn about, mainly b/c there is simply not enough time to read EVERYTHING. There can be balance. I don’t want to be in bondage or legalistic.

  • Ann

    My husband and I have debated getting rid of our tv. I think that our children would be much better off without it, but it seems like such a difficult thing to give up. Maybe someday we will try it.

  • Tuesdee Davis

    We have satelite, tivo and several televisions. I never, ever thought ten years ago that I would find so much fault in television. My children have always been limited on TV time and are very monitored in what they watch. But it seems like each time I think a show that appears simple is okay…I am proven wrong.

    My children are being homeschooled for the first time and I am enjoying the lack of peer or influences around them by not being in public school. I don’t know if it is something I have the ability to do forever, nor sure how I feel about long term? All I know is school an TV have a lot in common. Some kids may take nothing negative from it…and some may take nothing positive from it. My kids did great in PS…this was a personal decision to teach my kids where they involve God in science not the way the school teaches…teaching to simply pass a test is public schools goal. Tv’s goal is to make money…both have issues good and bad.

    My children began watching the cute show, Suite Life on Deck…two twin boys…little did I know my nine year old was begining to think baggy clothes and not doing home work..makes you cool. The boy who dresses nicer ( the way I do dress my kids…lol) and focuses on school is perceived as a dork. So although a show appears okay…it could be teaching your kids more than you realize. I could find personal fault in probably every show on TV…do we still watch som shows? Yes. Do I use many as a teaching tool? OH YES!!! We do enjoy certain shows and weekly movie night with our kids. Our home is by no means perfect but I could certainly see why someone would remove televisions from their home and kudos to those who do.

    I think I do my best with moderation, never using it as a babysitting tool or allowing them to watch something they try shouldnt. My family says I shield my kids too mucb because of what I do allow and the fact that even the news is off limits but I think I do a good job of leveling out the field of tv viewing.

  • Chris & Wendy
  • Karen

    Wow when I saw on the blurb on facebook that you don’t watch t.v. my first thoughts were negative but you raise some very good points. The commercials are disturbing, that’s why we watch videos, especially ones based on books we like, workout videos, and children’s movies. I do like to watch musicals and concerts from time to time on pbs. Also frontline can be really interesting sometimes, just not for the kids and you really have to take it with a grain of salt. Regular t.v. gets tiresome trying to find anything that isn’t stupid or inappropriate. And we are a comparatively small family with only 4 kids so far, but are already getting to that point of just too busy for t.v.!

  • Karen

    Here is a good suggestion – there is a good movie about the life of Mother Teresa. I think you will really like it even if you don’t agree with Catholic beliefs. It really is a very inspiring personal story of religious life and one woman’s walk with God.