TODAY'S TOPIC: Satellite/Cable TV. Is it necessary?
In general, I could live without TV. That doesn't mean I don't enjoy it, but I could live without it. Internet is another story for another day. That being said, I think cable is not only acceptable, but beneficial. The key is balance and guidelines.
For the kids, TV, and all the cable programming that comes with it, is a privilege, not a right. On a good day they each get to choose one, 30 minute, show. That means no more than 1.5 hours of TV, per day. It does not mean a free for all, to choose anything they want. I am very strict about what gets watched. For example, no Sponge Bob. The girls know what they are, and are not, allowed to watch. For as many bad programs that are offered by cable, there are just as many good ones. We opted for the Discovery tier, which opens up a whole world of educational TV for the kids.
Any of the girls can lose the privilege of watching TV for misbehaving. I find that it is a good currency.
Another important aspect is balancing TV with other childhood activities. Creative activities and outside play for example. On a typical day, when they get home from school, they eat snack and go out to play for an hour. When they come in, they do homework. Once everyone is done with homework, if there is time before dinner, they can watch TV.
For my husband and I, cable means DVR. DVR means we can watch "our" TV when it is convenient for us. I generally watch TV during the day, when no one else is home, while I fold laundry. My husband will watch a program when he gets home from work to unwind. Then there is the one and only show we watch together. Thanks to the DVR, we can watch that after the kids go to bed.
For us, cable has not meant more time planted in front of the TV. It has offered better choices in what to watch. For the kids, it's more educational. For my husband, it's Food Network. For me, it's all the wonderful food my husband is inspired to make... I mean news whenever I have a free moment. Without it, I would be limited to stupid reality shows, and soap operas.
Just like any time-consuming extra curricular activity, you have to make good choices. You can't ignore the real people in your life for the TV. Just because you have access to more programming, doesn't mean you need to watch it all.
What she said.
No, really. I'm not stupid!
I was going to go on and on about how having access to literally thousands of choices makes for a remote-controlled lifestyle where one subsists on show after banal show. Where one sits down and just starts flipping through the channels and stops to watch a minute or two of this or that before heading to the next must-see offering.
But that would be how it goes for some people. People unwilling to set limits, on themselves or on the children. People with zero imagination or energy.
Clearly, Missy is no such people. And I can't argue with a single thing she wrote.
Is having satellite/cable in the home wrong? Absolutely not.
Is having satellite/cable in the home a must? Again, absolutely not.
Is satellite/cable in the home necessary?
I grew up in a home where the TV often came on before the lights. It was the ever-present glow over every meal. The disruptive, chatty, obnoxious Buttinski, ruining nearly every meaningful conversation. Benny Hill and Carol Burnett and Ricardo Montalban were my babysitters.
And then came cable. With its nonstop marathons of mayhem and doting detectives and music videos. (Well, actually, that last part was pretty cool. Especially back when they played videos. Remember those?)
And now? Well, it takes every ounce of my extremely diminished willpower to keep from turning off the TV when we go over for a visit. I just can't stand the inanity of it all. The way it sucks you in and won't let you turn away, even (or, perhaps especially) from the more ridiculous stuff.
Now don't get me wrong: I love to do stuff that involves a TV. I play the occasional video game. my favorites including the Silent Hill series and any game that requires a guitar controller. And I am an avid movie viewer: I have a Blockbuster membership and get my money's worth. My library's collection of episodic shows on DVD has been perused and used regularly. (Most recently, it was The Wire. My God! After those 60+ hours, I'll never watch another Jerry-Bruckheimer-Dick-Wolf-produced show again.) The same goes for the rest of my family. They have things they like about the TV and, for the most part, they use it wisely. (Currently, it's nonstop Apolo Ohno. I hate Apolo Ohno.)
But their needs to be limits. And Missy covered those nicely. She also pointed out some nice alternatives to spending hours in front of the tube, to which I'll add some specific examples that my family enjoys:
1) The Library. Find the one in your town and go get a card if you don't already have one. Each of my children got their own library card when they turned five. Sure, the fines pile up occasionally, but I can eat those easier than a cable bill.
2) Family Game Night. I know. It's an overused platitude, but it works. We have a closet just for games, ranging from the simple (Uno) to the more time-consuming and complex (Arkham Horror). Sometimes everyone joins in, and at other times it's just a select few. Regardless, it becomes a habit. One that leads to conversation, laughter, and the occasional argument. The stuff of life. Real life. Not the crap you see on TV. Your Family Game Night doesn't have to look like the one on TV, with all the saccharine smiles and whoops of joy. Make it your own.
3) Read something! See #1. And when you get your basketful of books home, grab one, grab some couch, and crack that cover. We don't do this as much as we used to, where everyone sits down together and just enjoys a book. But it's not rare to find someone hanging out in their favorite corner, or in my favorite chair, curled up and reading. There is enough imagination-inducing goodness between the covers of most any book to easily rival whatever TV has to offer.
Our TV? Not a flat screen. It's 27 inches of big, fat monstrosity that likes to shut off on its own right in the middle of the good parts. I have rabbit ears hooked up to the digital converter the government made me buy. I am told that I should probably consider getting hooked up. Verizon won't leave me alone, wanting me to upgrade to the latest mind-blowing package deal. And I probably will eventually. But I'm glad I've taken the time to ensure that TV-watching is a lesser priority.
It sure makes things just a little bit quieter . . .
Alright, people. It's your turn. Is satellite/cable TV necessary? Is television in general necessary? Can you live without it? Should you live without it? Can we live without it? Sound off in the comments . . .
[Flickr image by kevinzim and is protected]