Television has become so ghastly, so utterly depraved in so many different ways, it's surprising we are not hearing a regular denouncement of it from the collective pulpit and other organizations which promote decency.
When I was a kid the rule in our house was you had to read an hour for every hour of TV - which automatically cuts the number of potential hours watching TV in half and, really, even further because even a voracious reader is only going to bank so many hours for, say, Saturday morning. Also, there were only five channels, two of which were the same network and one of which was PBS, and the VCR didn't make its appearance until I was in high school. As a result I never developed much of a TV habit.
We had cable when we were first married because my husband liked the political/economic analysis channels, but we cancelled it because he found watching on a regular basis provoked a lot of anger and anxiety. I hardly ever watched because I'd flip through the channels and find nothing I was remotely interested in. I was much more entertained reading.
There are four main benefits from not watching TV:
- You are spared the advertising and thus the pressure to constantly want and buy things that are utterly unnecessary for happiness. No doubt I've saved countless dollars just from ignorance. From a parent's perspective, my kid also is unaware of how much stuff I'm not buying him and more or less happy with what he's got. I notice this benefit when I give him soup, a roll, and a cup of tea after school for a snack and he gobbles it up, smacks his lips, and asks for more. He does not demand Dora the Explorer fruit roll ups or what have you. He did ask for a Batman lunchbox this fall when he saw one in Meijer, but - well, let's face it, who wouldn't want one of those? Batman is cool.
- You are spared the constant barrage on your traditional morals and values. The funny, cool people on television are very frequently cruel, spiteful, stupid, promiscuous, and selfish, and every cutting edge show pushes a sexual agenda contrary to real Christian or Jewish beliefs. The writers of these shows know that if they can make their characters sympathetic, the viewer will cut them a break when they do something immoral because they like them. Every episode watched then is an assault on any solid moral standards as we struggle to pass judgment on the actions of "people" we like. Can anyone doubt this has an effect in real life situations? The most dangerous type of person to a collective moral standard is a "nice" person who behaves immorally because we don't like to condemn the behavior of nice people. But if it is immoral, we really have to. Excising TV from your life will at least eliminate this dilemma from one area of your life. As a parent, if you do not let your child watch TV, you have a far greater ability to shape what they believe without unwanted intrusion. You will not be inviting immoral people into your house, and you will not have to answer so many difficult questions until your child is at least old enough to understand nuance. Essentially, you can guide them according to your own beliefs until their moral compass has been fully created.
- You will not be tempted to enjoy the humiliation of real people or feel superior to them. The rise of reality TV has essentially been the reappearance of the freak show, writ large. We would be ashamed to peer at and mock people with physical deformities, but we don't hesitate when it's people with no sense, no intelligence, or no morals. Some of the people on reality TV shows are true sociopaths or actual villains, but most of them are stupid, undisciplined, or morally malformed, often due to the kind of bad parenting we see all too often. If we cannot help them, we can at least not elevate or celebrate them, watching happily as they inevitably crash and burn on the public stage.
- You will have much more time to do actual worthwhile things.