Twelve Reasons to Turn off the Television

In celebration of reaching the four-month mark without expanded cable service I’ve put together a list of reasons to turn off the television. With only local channels available our family has greatly reduced our television time and see several improvements in other areas of our lives. My family, who initially provided serious resistance to the idea, has come around and now agrees this was one of the best decisions we have made. I hope I still fill that way when college football season starts!

Reasons to Turn Off the Television

Weight gain. There is a real correlation between the amount of television someone watches and their weight. It is bad enough most of us sit in an office all day, but then we come home and sit on a sofa the rest of the night parked in front of a television. If you are like I was back in the day of channel surfing I usually had a snack and/or a cold soft drink in my hand the whole time. I personally discovered I don’t have the food cravings I used to have while writing or reading a book. By breaking one bad habit I really broke two.

More family time. We’ve been living without expanded cable now for over four months and it has been one of the best decisions we have ever made. My wife and I frequently remark after putting the kids to bed that “this is the first time the television has been on today.” My youngest still enjoys a few DVDs, and my daughter also watches an occasional movie, but for the most part the television is off when we are all together as a family.

More time outdoors. With the increased family time we spend much more time outdoors than we used to. our backyard is our refuge. I tend to my square foot garden while my kids jump on their trampoline. My son has even developed a pretty good fastball from tossing the ball with his Dad. I wonder how much of this time we would have missed while sitting inside glued to The Disney Channel right up until bedtime.

Commercials. When we see commercials we tend to want to rush out and buy things. Advertisers are a savvy bunch, and they know just which strings to pull to relate to your emotions. Keep temptation out of your life by turning off the television, or at a minimum do what we did – purchase a TiVo and skip the commercials.

Soap operas make us feel financially insecure. This applies to both day time and prime time soap operas (is there really much difference?). Any time I catch parts of these shows I am always amused at the number of people living lavish lifestyles, but don’t have to work. Those who do work seem to earn far beyond the normal salaries of their real-world equivalents. For instance, most police detectives don’t drive a Mercedes and live in multi-million dollar homes. These shows have a way of skewing reality, making us less secure about our own lives.

Too racy. I had the unfortunate experience of passing the television the other night while my wife watched an episode of a new show, Lipstick Jungle. The scene I happened to see depicted a married woman engaged in inappropriate behavior with someone in her office. Now, I know I am old-fashioned, but I don’t believe this kind of trash should be on regular television. And we wonder what’s wrong with our youth’s morals these days? I am pleased to report my wife gave up on the show because it was just too over-the-top.

Save Money. Besides the reduction of energy costs, by canceling the expanded portion of our cable service we were able to reduce our bill from $47 to $12. We immediately took that $35 and added it to the amount we were already contributing each month to to build our emergency fund at ING Direct.¬† If you just can’t live without watching your favorite series, many can be found on Netflix where you can watch them on your own schedule and mail them back when you are ready.

Noise pollution. Ever know one of those people who just liked to have the television on, even if they weren’t watching it? To me, this is just noise pollution. There is nothing wrong with silence, or maybe even some soft background music.

Television interferes with sleep. I’m guilty here. I frequently fall asleep to the flickering lights and nearly inaudible sounds of late night talk shows. It is how I unwind at the end of a long day. For some reason, I crave some form of mindless entertainment and this is it. The problem is, I am knowingly contributing to my insomnia, and restless sleep cycles. Light from the television interrupts my body’s circadian rhythm and the constant flickering keeps my brain stimulated when it should be gearing down for the night. I know I should power off and just go to sleep, but not before Dave’s Top Ten List.

American Idle (no typo). Need I say more? This show has corrupted our idea of what makes a good entertainer. If Springstein, Tom Petty or Bob Segar ever appeared here they would not have made it through the first round of auditions. Perfect pitch and tonation don’t make someone a star. Can you tell I’m not a big fan of the show?

Read more. My 52 Books in 2008¬†series has been well-discussed throughout Frugal Dad. I’m a little behind the pace to reach my total, but I anticipate more reading time this summer if we take any mini-vacations so I’m hoping to catch up. I enjoyed reading in school, but after graduating college I didn’t reach much outside of a couple magazines. My attention span seemed to grow shorter and shorter, and I fed it with mindless television shows. When I did try to read I would find myself re-reading the same paragraphs over and over because my mind was usually on something else. With the television off, and limited choices available, we are all able to focus more on reading some great books. I am currently reading The 4-Hour Workweek and my wife just finished up the Steve Irwin biography, Steve and Me written by his widow, Terri Irwin. She read several passages outloud to me and said it was a great book about a great conservationist, husband and devoted father. The world misses Steve Irwin.

Shortens kid’s attention span. It is hard to keep a five year-old’s attention longer than five minutes, and television isn’t helping. Several studies have shown that heavy television viewing by children contributes to the development of attention-deficit and other behavioral disorders. The constant shifting of graphics, speakers, and audio contribute to a providing a constant distraction to toddlers. Instead of watching a mindless children’s show or violent cartoon, consider going outside or working on an engaging puzzle.