Cutting Back TV – “OK, But How?”

By , March 17, 2008 9:01 pm

I spend a lot of time talking about the benefits of reducing children’s television viewing, but I don’t always say much about HOW to do it. For us, it has always been pretty easy. Since my children have never had TV, they don’t miss it. Definitely the easiest way to go.

But how do you reduce or eliminate TV-watching when your children are used to it, and most likely really enjoy it? I imagine that this could require some…hmmm…”delicate handling.”

Of course for the very strong among you, cold-turkey is always an option. While you’re at it, cold showers, 10-mile winter hikes, and cod liver oil are probably good for kids too. But let’s be real here: is it really worth it? The resulting drama, weeping and wailing that could possibly occur, might make life not worth living for the parents! So what can parents do to reduce TV-time without undue suffering?

Jonah Lisa has some ideas. She wrote an interesting and witty post about how her son Huck’s television-viewing gradually and insidiously increased. Finally, caught in a “shame spiral” about his viewing-time, she decided to take action and came up with a very practical TV-reduction plan (her “7 Step TV Trap Action Plan”). Last I heard, the plan has been in place for a week and seems to be working with minimal misery for all!

I will not list her ideas here since they are her ideas, not mine. Instead I will send any of you interested readers over to The Toby Show to read Jonah Lisa’s “7 Step TV Trap Action Plan” for yourselves. Her post is entertaining and the advice is great! Please stop by if you have any interest at all in reducing your children’s TV-viewing.

One last thought: National TV-Turn Off Week is coming soon (April 21st-27th), so if you plan on giving it a go, now might be a good time to begin, or at least think about decreasing TV-dependency, so that turning it off for one whole week is not quite such a shock!

Photo courtesy of morguefile and photographer Kristine Kisky.

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9 Responses to “Cutting Back TV – “OK, But How?””

  1. Well, you know we’ve been on this trek of less tv for quite some time. I’ve even canceled the cable, but now it’s just those blasted DVDs and VHS tapes I need to manage! And with more and more coming in as gifts (for a variety of reasons) I’m about to go nuts! Nathan really likes having the tv as background noise, though, I’ve decided. He turns it on (usually Baby Einstein with great music), watches for a bit and then plays. If I turn it off, he comes back in and turns it on. Anyway, I will most definitely read that article – sounds like it might be just what we need to get a better handle on the boob-tube! :)

  2. mel says:

    Ah yes! “HOW do you do it?!” There does seem to be a perception that no TV means chaos and mayhem unless a parent assumes the role of micromanager. Our home has also been basically TV-free since… well, ever. (Except for the Olympics!)

    But we have a few DVDs and occassionally borrow one from the library. There was a period of time when my kids were constantly asking if they could “watch a moozie,” so I instituted a ticket system to help them self-regulate and develop some decision-making skills.

    A few months later, they had already outgrown the phase. We haven’t used it for more than a year, but I think it could be helpful for families trying to reduce their screentime without too many tears.

    Here’s a link to my description: http://themealeyfamily.blogspot.com/2006/09/ticketmaster.html

    The system can, of course, be tailored to each family’s needs in terms of how much time each ticket is worth, how many tickets are given, and what leftover tickets are used for. (At our house, “banked” tickets bought used books. I loved the equation of less screentime = more books!)

  3. Kate in NJ says:

    I could have a tv free kid, if I could get a tv free hubby…any ideas?
    LOL….just kidding. I like tv too, but not all the time.
    I also prefer to watch an actual program..not click around like he does. My P would rather do “maths” then watch tv, so I think we’re ok. I do keep an eye on how much she watches, and try to “focus” her tv time to good programming.

  4. Jonah Lisa says:

    Thanks for the link, Mama Unplugged! Glad people are finding my methods helpful. They are still working great for us. And I’m not sure any one of them would work as well without the others.

    Huck actually likes the chicken timer and will bring it to me when we turn on the tv. He calls it the “TV Chicken.” And he’ll turn off the TV himself when we’re finished. He still whines some to watch TV when we’re upstairs if things get a little boring, but he’s young enough that a simple no and some distraction usually does the trick.

    I love the ticket idea for older kids. That seems like a great way to help them understand that TV is a treat rather than an unalienable right.

  5. Yes, I think weaning husbands off tv is a much bigger problem. Luckily my husband is too cheap to pay for cable so we’ve never had tv.

    We had a lot of movies in the past and whenever the kids started getting addicted to them I just boxed them up and put them all away for a few months. The good news is that I won’t have to do that anymore because our VHS broke! Now they can only watch DVD’s they get from the library and I am very strict about that.

  6. We have had a surprisingly smooth cold turkey approach to no TV. Before we went on vacation I told my son that we would have no TV when we returned from our holiday. When we returned, predictably he asked for TV. I said no and HE repeated that now that we are back, no TV, although he did say he could watch TV when he was 7. Later he upped it to 9. He hasn’t asked for TV since and I have 7 years until I have to worry about him asking again!

    We do, however, watch the occasional weather report.
    On the other hand, I am still addicted to my netflix.

  7. Mom Unplugged says:

    Wow! Thanks for all the really great comments!

    Mel-Your ticket idea is a really great one. I like how it teaches saving and spending…and the trade-in for books is pure genius!

    Does anyone else out there have some original ideas? If so, I’ll write another post and link to more ideas. I love hearing what works for people. It is really helpful to know what other people’s experiences have been. Thanks again everyone!

  8. Claudia says:

    I eliminated TV on last july, during a holiday. I was alone with the kids for a month and I just said the TV was not working. They never asked for it. When we came back home, I simply put the TV out of sight. They never asked for it.

    But my DH thought I was too “bad” and that they could watch a cartoon on sunday. So that’s what we’re doing now and I can say It was easier to live without TV than watching TV once a week, because now they think about it and they ask during the week…

  9. […] (In case you missed it, here is my original post about Jonah Lisa: Cutting Back TV – “OK, But How?”) […]

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