There are certain luxuries that seem to have become necessities in the USA. Forty years ago, my mother would hang the laundry out to dry on a clothes line — even during the winter. Today, just about everyone has access to a clothes dryer. Thirty years ago, video games were very basic and had not yet taken a dominant role in childhood entertainment so kids still went outside to play on a daily basis. Twenty years ago, videocassettes were still sufficiently expensive that although we rented, we rarely, if ever, purchased them. Ten years ago, the Internet still had not penetrated into even half of all US households.
Times have changed. Chances are good that if you are reading this, at least in the USA, you use a clothes dryer to dry your laundry, own at least one video game system if you have kids, have at least a small collection of DVDs, and certainly have Internet access. I leave it to you to determine whether these are positive developments or not, but there is one evolution that I do want you to consider. Is the invasive growth of television access in your home a good thing?
When I was growing up in the Boston area, we had PBS (channel 2), NBC (channel 4), ABC (channel 5), CBS (channel 7), a second ABC affiliate from New Hampshire (channel 9), and three local channels (channels 27, 38 and 56). That was it. Indeed, none of the local channels even broadcast continuously and I recall as a very young boy getting up ahead of the rest of my house and watching the National Anthem played to start the broadcasting day. As I got older, I believe that the National Anthem was also played to close out the broadcasting day as well.
Times have changed and now I have a satellite television provider. We receive about 200 channels, most of which we never watch and many of which I don’t believe we can even find. At our peak, we had satellite access in six rooms of our eight rooms, including every bedroom and one bathroom. With all of that access, I believe we watched a collective eight hours of television per week.
About two years ago, I started eliminating satellite boxes and TVs from our house. We now have access in three rooms — the family room, master bedroom and in our younger son’s room. Our younger son does not realize it but his box will be eliminated in the coming couple of weeks. I disconnected his box a month ago to see if he would notice. He has not noticed so I think I can make the decision to disconnect with a minimum of friction.
The battle will then come to pass. I want to eliminate the satellite box from the master bedroom. My wife is a reader. I am a reader. We just do not watch the TV enough to justify having it. Also, with my kids in school all day and my wife and I generally busy, if either of us wants to steal a moment to actually watch something on TV, the family room television is always available.
I am not sure how my wife will perceive my objective. The master bedroom was always a place for us to watch something that we wanted to watch without having to negotiate with our kids. Usually, that negotiation would take place every four years, during a presidential election. My wife loves to watch debates, commentary and political speeches during an election year, but that is really the only time that there has ever been a real desire to control the remote. By the time we get to the next election, neither child is likely to care too much about the TV or even be at home.
It all seems rational to me but only time will tell whether I can persuade my better half. Whether you are considering eliminating television completely or just cutting back on the number of TVs in your home with cable or satellite access, here are five arguments that you need to consider:
Doing is Better than Watching: If you are watching TV, by definition you are not really doing anything. Although there may be educational or cultural programming which can improve your mind, you are not usually accomplishing anything by sitting in front of a TV. Eliminate TV access in your home and start getting more done!
Reading is Better than Watching: Reading stimulates the mind in ways that television never can. Reading will also tire your eyes and help you fall asleep much faster at night than a television. More importantly, reading does not have to cost you anything if you take advantage of your local library.
Cable and Satellite TV Offer Lots of Channels You Do Not Need: If you look at your cable bill, you are probably paying a lot of money for a lot of channels that you never watch. The bundles that cable and satellite providers offer generally force you to accept and pay for channels that offer no value to you. Why pay for channels that you do not need?
Almost Every Program is Available on DVD or On-Line: Rather than pay for daily access to TV programming, wait for your favorite shows to be available on DVD and borrow them from your library. Also, with web networks like Hulu offering current television programming and many of the networks offering current programming on their own sites, the Internet can very quickly replace the TV for your viewing pleasure.
Bring the Family Closer Together: Even if you choose not to eliminate all of your TV sets, cut back on the number of receivers that you lease each month and force your family to come together to watch programming that is of interest to everyone. If you are going to sit on the sofa and watch TV, at least make it a family experience.
What are the reasons that you have for paying or not paying for large cable and satellite packages? How do you approach TV in your home? Do your kids have TV access? Is it limited or restricted? Do you read? What programming makes having TV access essential in your home?