“If you read a lot of books, you are considered well read. But if you watch a lot of TV, you’re not considered well-viewed.” Lily Tomlin

Yesterday I talked about the best marriage (and eventually parenting) advice we ever received: not to get a television. As I said before, we are not against movies, television programs, etc. per se. We enjoy movies as a family. Each of us has a favorite television program or two that we watch on dvd sometimes. However, by not having television programming, we are controlling our viewing, rather than the viewing controlling us.

Obviously, you can have a television and still control it. I actually know a few people who have television and probably watch four or five hours a week. They are controlling it rather than it controlling them. I’m afraid this wouldn’t be the case if our family had television stations available, so we are better off without access to them.

For those who want to have more control over their television habits (and your children’s television habits), I have compiled a list of ideas that I have read, used, or heard from other families. Hopefully, you will find a help or two in this—and you will use the time you are saving with reduced television viewing to develop stronger family relationships.

                       Curb Your Family’s Television Viewing—Part I of III

1. Set weekly time limits. Even with the ability to only watch movies, we have had to set weekly limits through the years when it seemed that everyday someone wanted to watch a movie! We have usually had the four to six hour movie rule per week—and find that this is enough for the kids to watch a thing or two that they want on dvd (currently Monk on dvd) and a family movie or two. (This varies with kids, too. A couple of our kids really like watching movies; our three boys now went the entire month of January without watching anything, even though they were allowed to watch if they asked. Now they got a television series on dvd and have watched several hours in one week. It is the spirit of this rule—not the letter—that we try to follow. It is about being in control of your life (and teaching your kids to be in control of theirs—not about a certain number).) We balance this time out so that it is enough entertainment to enjoy being entertained, but not so much that it controls our lives.*

2. Set television days. We had a rule for over a dozen years that other than educational dvd’s (we use some teachers on cd/dvd for school), movies could only be watched on Friday, Saturday, or Sunday. I prefer the #1 idea as sometimes the children wanted to watch, watch, watch simply because it was the weekend.*

3. Decide ahead of time what programs/times/days the family will watch television each week. Many child development experts recommend this—and call it the “family viewing schedule.” Write these programs/times on a calendar or schedule, and only turn the television on during those times. This method provides you with conscientious, purposeful viewing—not just, “Wow, we’re home, so we should turn on the television.”

4. Cover your television or put it away unless it is purposeful viewing time. We have our television on a rolling cart in my bedroom closet. This works for us because it is not hooked up to anything to keep it in one place (i.e. cable or box, etc.). I know this might not work if you have it hooked up to receive programming, but our family loves this. We just sit in the living room and talk for hours—no television calling out to us, no “favorite programs” causing us to work around them. If you do have your television hooked up to something, you might consider having it in an armoire or other close-able cupboard. Again, the out of sight, out of mind concept works wonders, especially for younger children.

Well, I am again out of time and space. Tomorrow I will post tips for television viewing reduction for children specifically. Same bat time. Same bat channel. (I know, it gets corny two days in a row. I just couldn’t resist.)

*Note: With the ability to watch things online, watch dvd’s, stick a dvd in the laptop, etc., we have found it especially important to include all viewing in these time or day limits. Thus, the four to six hours a week includes anything they watch—unless they watch it at Grandpa’s for an overnighter or something.

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