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.


  1. I agree with the previous commenter–it really does fry your creativity. I’ve got to break free of the flat-screen slavemaster and get myself writing (and reading and walking and running and enjoying DC) again!

  2. I can’t help myself. I often find TV more enjoyable than movies. I’m connected to Scrubs, Law & Order, and Dancing with the Stars…but, I’m an actor and I know a number of the people on those shows, so…whatever.

    I don’t know. When we move this Summer, we’ll probably get rid of cable TV.

  3. TV Zaps your creative juices too. It makes your brain lazy and passive. I hate it. I hate that it sucks up so much of my time, especially when you get a new 40 inch LCD that looks incredible. Why do I do this to myself?

  4. I sometimes like to have it going while I’m doing uncreative stuff, like simple coding. But I can’t handle soap operas or most daytime tv, so I borrow shows from the library.

    We have a number of favorite shows, but they’re on after we’d like to be in bed. So we’ve started taking advantage of their availability online instead. I think the companies were brilliant about that. There are still commercials, but they’re shorter.

  5. @Matt: I tried that, but the wife overruled me! I reminded her that most network shows appeared online these days (as Mrs. Micah mentions above), but I still lost the argument. I figure better to drop from $47 to $12 a month than nothing.

  6. I couldn’t agree more! We cut our cable back to the absolute minimum several years ago. Occasionally, I miss some channels like Discovery, The Travel Channel, etc., but overall it was definitely a good move. I would encourage everyone to follow your advice.

  7. We have extended cable but simply don’t turn on the televsion until the children go to bed. They don’t seem to miss it (I think they get enough TV at Mom’s house). However, I can’t give up the DVR because it’s great for recording shows for adults and kids. Plus I work in television so when I can’t watch one of my shows, I need to be able to catch up later.

  8. My wife is the soap addict. I always laugh at the homes and such. With as little time as the characters spend working, it would be so much better to have a story line involving the credit crunch. TV is just becoming over exposure. We see it we need it. Not so many worries before TV became the new american past time.

  9. I think this is great. My husband and I cut the TV out completely before we got married, and are 4-years TV free now. We have a travel-sized DVD player that we use for Netflix, so we still watch movies a few times a week. We have a two-year-old who loves watching Baby Einstein and other DVD gifts from our relatives that work on her counting skills, imagination, shapes, colors, etc. It’s good for her development, and we know exactly what’s on the screen for her. We eat dinner around the table, talk about our days, and read or engage in other hobbies at night. While we enjoy the TV when we’re traveling, we certainly don’t miss it in the home…honestly, unless someone brings it up, we don’t even think about it anymore!

  10. We decreased our package and I am so glad. The television is not on as much, and the big shocker…we are COMPLETELY fine without it. We did add a Netflix subscription for my husband and I to watch on the weekend or a family movie for us all to watch together, but that is a special treat.

    Great list- love it!!

  11. We just reduced our pay TV last weekend. Already the kids are finding much more imaginative and stimulating ways to spend their time. Like you, I’m a bit shocked at what I see on the screen sometimes – do I want my kids to see that sort of stuff? We will hopefully see benefits for my son’s attention span too.

  12. I’m sure TV is part of the reason that I have trouble concentrating on anything for more than 5 minutes. *sigh* But I do love my tube. We’ve got three TVs hooked up and one waiting to be hooked up. And I can’t stand being home alone without the TV on. I never have been able to stand it.

    And after a very long day all I want to do is sit and veg out. I usually multi-task though. Creating, designing, or playing video games on my laptop. Speaking of ADD.

    *what’s that over there*

    *ducks out*

  13. I dont watch t.v anymore since I got my laptop.

    But if I didn’t have my laptop, turning the tv off would be a big challenge. Especially when the “Game” is on.

    failureblogger-16 year old blogger

  14. I agree on all that! my husband and I watch like 3 hours a week of TV. but I dont agree with the cutting the cable off thing. We can moderate ourselves… cant we?

  15. We got rid of cable when we moved cross country over four years ago. We also live in an area with poor reception and do not have rabbit ears. The only time I miss it is when there is a weather emergency, but more and more the Internet is covering that aspect, too.
    We use Netflix and the kids get to watch one movie a week, with the rare “we’re having a horrendous day” exception. It works well for us, but as I have my own love affair with the Internet, it’s not like I can point fingers and claim superiority. 😉

  16. When I picked up the second job and simultaneously went back to school for a second degree, I decided that TV was going to have to take a back seat. Not only did I save roughly $40 a month on cable, I’ve discovered pockets of time during the day that I never knew were there!

    When I come home from Job #1 before starting Job #2, I have time to call a friend, do some dishes, pet the cats, hang out in the garden, and any number of other meaningful activities. Before I canceled cable, HGTV would suck me in, and four hours later I’d still be there on the couch watching shows that added nothing to my life.

    I encourage you to drop the cable! You’ll still receive local channels (I do have to have my morning news and weather) and a $29 antenna does the trick admirably as far as clear picture and sound.

  17. The reason people on “entertainment” television are even the least bit interesting is because they aren’t watching television. Do it or watch someone else doing it, tough choice.

  18. Now that your wife has gotten used to the idea, you should push to completely drop cable. You can still get over-the-air HD programming. It has made a huge difference in my families life. We have not had cable for several years.

  19. Also, the big networks have their shows available on line. This is much more convenient, and you only watch what you really want to watch (rather than being caught up by some show you catch while channel surfing).

  20. I used to have a TV in my room up until a few months ago when I bought a 24″ monitor and the TV would no longer fit on the same desk. So I moved the TV to the basement and just stopped watching it. I still watch TV shows but now it’s on my schedule and it’s the shows I want to watch (on or other similar sites) and turns out I also watch a lot less TV and get a lot more done.

  21. re: Matt’s comment and Frugal Dad’s reply.
    Yep, with a family who “see” TV differently it comes down to pragmatic practicalities – aka I wanna continue to live with these guys.

    One reason to watch some TV here in J-land is to learn more of the language. ‘Course talking to the natives would be even more realistic 😉

    mark mcclure

  22. I’ve often wondered why people watch TV. I always found it rather boring to be honest. Admittedly I do like action movies and video games but both broadcast and cable TV, and I’ve tried both over the years, are just boring. Then we get to the barrage of advertisements. Geez!
    The last thing I recall really watching was the 1984 Winter Olympics. In 1988, I tried but instead of seeing the actual sports, it was nearly non-stop advertising, and during the short moments between advertising blitzkriegs, the TV personalities wouldn’t stop chattering about everything from their political views to which athlete’s cousin was dating whom. I just turned it off.

    I’ve come to accept the fact that since my behavior is not the average, by not having my mind twisted and my behavior modified and controlled by an appliance then by default I am deviant. Go figure.