Guest post: 'We have been TV-free for seven years!'

Today's post is one which I'm sure you'll find fascinating! It all started with a Twitter conversation in which my blogger friend, Grace from Sandier Pastures (read more about her below), told me that they've been without cable TV for years. Knowing nothing about staying without television, I requested her to share her experience and the result is this guest post in which she bares all about her family's decision to go TV free.

(Pic: texasgurl/Flickr/CC BY-NC 2.0)

It's been almost seven years since we cut off cable TV. This is not a pompous claim that this life is a better and if you're watching TV (or too much of it), your life sucks! This is just a way of life for us, what worked for us and to show you that life without the television is possible. And actually, more enjoyable.

The American Academy of Pediatrics has renewed its advice that parents not let children younger than 2 years old watch television. Television viewing fosters less parent-child interaction, cutting down on what experts call 'talk time', in which a child hears lots of vocabulary words that in turn help develop their language abilities. As this TIME article points out, 'Educational TV' for babies doesn't exist. Exposure to TV before the age of two does more harm than good, including language delay.

Life without TV might be hard (at first) but in reality, it's do-able. We did it and never looked back.

For us, I'd like to think we got lucky. I was raised to watch TV only on weekend nights, that is Friday evening, Saturday and then only until 8 pm on Sunday as school started again the next day. For starters, you could say I am not a TV addict. I like to watch TV but won't die without it. In fact, I don't know when people find time to watch it, or keep up with the listings to find something interesting to watch.

Pristine was watching half hour of television every morning before we dropped her off to the daycare while we were in Japan. It was an edutainment (educational + entertainment) program. I convinced myself that the show could be helpful for her but honestly, it was more helpful for me - the TV show got her attention and helped me go through my routine morning in the kitchen without interruption.

We relocated to Dubai in 2007 when she was three and were given a company accommodation without TV in it. Living on a single income, we didn't have the freedom to spend on buying stuff  for entertainment yet but somehow we managed. My husband would take our daughter to the park during the time I was out working, played with her in the room when it was too hot to be outside. We strolled around our new environment after dinner. We have a video compilation of the daughter and dad playtimes and our strolls during our first days here in Dubai. We enjoy watching those precious videos over and over even now. It has been the most rewarding and precious time in our family life.

Suddenly, we found the TV out of our life, but it was not like we lived in a cave. We adults updated ourselves by reading the news on the internet. Our life moved on even if we didn't know who was the newly crowned American Idol. I didn't even know what this 'Sex and the City' that my friends were talking about was!- but it was not like I'd suffocate if I didn't know who Samantha Jones had newly conquered! I didn't feel lost even if I hadn't watched a single episode of Lost.

We moved out of the company accommodation in in a few months but still had not bought a TV set. Our toddler wasn't looking for it and thought not having a TV set was the way it was.

Was it easy? Not really, because a TV-free home means giving our full attention to our daughter as she relies on us for company throughout the day. She was at the age of asking a thousand questions every day and demanding one of us to be by her side to play with. Free from the reigns of the remote control, we were actually more relaxed to spend time with our child without the wave of panic to run to the sofa because our favorite show was starting!

We have a TV set now but that is mainly for watching DVDs and playing Dance Central on the Xbox. So watching TV shows is not okay but DVD  is okay, you ask? DVDs end. And we can choose which DVDs to watch. We also like that we can choose the time to watch and not 'forced' to sit down because our favorite series in on.

All parents would agree that TV programs go on and on and on day in and day out, yes? Have you tried to stop your kids from watching cartoon network for 'just' an hour? What is his/her reaction?

We have watched friends struggle to limit or control their children's TV/screen time: arguments over quitting time, just one more minute, just have to finish this part, etc.  This reinforced our decision not to connect to the cable TV channels again. Life without TV isn't exactly a death sentence - especially in this age where there is internet and we have an iPad that plays YouTube videos (supervised - both kids love National Geographic and Animal Planet documentaries) and there's internet television to watch any TV series (we are currently hooked to Dr. Who and watching an episode per day together).

Life changed for us when we unplugged the (electronic) baby sitter almost seven years ago but we have no regrets. The average TV viewing of an American household in 2008-2009 is very high 4 hours and 49 minutes a day. And it's increasing every year (source: Nielsen survey), Imagine the other creative and more meaningful things you can do in those FOUR HOURS and 49 minutes!

I think that TV is a lot like junk food. A little bit now and then won't hurt - even a binge now and then - but a steady diet of TV means you're probably missing out on getting healthy helpings of some important nutrients - like imaginative play, exercise, art, poetry, reading, and conversation.

My feelings about TV and our decision for turning it off, as I wrote back in 2007 is still the same - we removed he TV not to want to get into a "holier than thou" place, where those who don't watch are better than those who do - but neither do I want to buy the argument that we need to watch TV in order to share a common culture.

Grace  took the plunge when she uprooted her family from their quiet, suburban life in Japan to live in the Middle East in 2007. Now, a mom to two beautiful kids, she is still working full time and writes about parenting, the Dubai expat life, travel, blogging and a lot more at her blog, Sandier Pastures. You can find her on Twitter, Facebook and sharing blogging and social media coaching over a friendly dinner!

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Grace @ Sandier Pastures said...

Thanks for the chance to guest post on your blog!

Umm Hamdan said...

I agree with the junk food part- TV also makes your child crave for unhealthy food habits ;) It

Tarana Khan said...

Thanks for writing it! I was very interested in this post because I grew up in a TV-oriented environment. Only after having my baby have I got rid of the habit! I won't deny that I let my toddler watch TV but I try to give him as much outdoor time as I can.

Tarana Khan said...

You're right about that!

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