I came home from coffee with a friend a couple of weeks ago and Dave and Levi greeted me sheepishly at the door. I peered around them to see our TV table sitting in the hall and an armchair in it's place in the living room. A threat that has been looming for a while now had come to fruition. Dave has been reading this book called 'Better Off - Flipping the Switch on Technology' and amidst lots of learning, challenge and idle threats to sell our house and move in with the Amish (ooooook, honey), one fairly reasonable notion he has had is to get rid of the TV in the living room *sharp intake of breath*.
To be honest, I think I felt less enamoured with the idea because it has been such an easy Levi distraction for me to pull out when I need to get something done or for those precious 15 minutes to myself, but truth be told, the TV has become a bit redundant for us. It has become this big black rectangular object sitting in the corner of our communal space that all our other furniture gets pointed at and gets switched on for no other reason than habit. Home for lunch? Switch on the telly. Empty space in the day? Switch on the telly. Having people over? Switch on the telly. Weird huh?
Now, before you get all groany and eye-rolly on me - I am not for one minute declaring that we are some sort of TV-boycotting oddballs. We absolutely watch and consume lots of TV shows - it's just that the only things we really watch regularly are accessed through the internet and on laptops, so there really hasn't been any need for the big black box to feature so heavily in our lives and our physical space. I'm definitely not against TV - I love nothing more than curling up with a good box set series, but in our house it was becoming too accessible as a default distraction.
So the TV has now been banished to the playroom in the basement, where Dave and Levi have set up a bit of a den and it is only connected to on-demand TV, meaning we are one step closer to being an advertisement-free house and that makes Dave very happy, ESPECIALLY in the run up to Christmas. I honestly cannot handle another year of "Mum, can I get that?" as he points to every single advert for every single toy in between episodes of Paw Patrol & My Little Pony. I really honestly fervently set out to raise an undemanding, unentitled child, I really did. Damn you, Tiny Pop.
Anyway, it has been just a couple of weeks since we said goodbye to the quick flick of the remote and here are some of the genuine changes/benefits so far:
+ There is so much less noise and audio clutter in our general living space. It has almost unnerved me how quiet it is at times.
+ I have been reading more, blogging more, taking more pictures. Dave the same.
+ Levi has been drawing and colouring and building things; digging out toys and books that had been gathering dust. It's an actual JOY to watch.
+ Our living room set-up is way more conversational now - it makes it easy to chat.
+ I think my plants are surviving better (that may be entirely unrelated to TV and more to do with a less distracted care-giver).
+ No more falling asleep on the sofa watching something that is actually nothing (DAVE).
And in the spirit of keeping it real - some potential hurdles to consider:
+ We are probably more inclined to look at our phones now more than ever, highlighting the really annoying reality of being people that need constant entertainment. We need to keep an eye on this. Phones & laptops can't just become other forms of distraction - that's totally missing the point.
+ Sometimes Levi goes down to the playroom in the basement to play or watch TV and sometimes it's unsupervised and I've found out that lately his programme of choice has been 'Sam & Cat'. Now I'm going to have to keep a closer eye on what's on the TV when he's down there because Sam & Cat is the show from hell itself. Whiny, brattish, and makes girls look stupid. And what is up with Ariana Grande's voice in it?! I cannot handle.
So, it has only been a little while - and I'm not saying we are some sort of alternative-living saints for changing it up; like I said, we still watch TV or Netflix on the laptop when we want to, but having the big TV out of convenience has (so far) been really good. I think it's about being intentional about the balance.
Around the same time as the exit of the TV, Lucy posted this great piece about how there are many other things that are worse for our children than ipad/screen time, and that we need to STOP pitting nature or 'traditional childhoods in the good old days' and technology against each other as if they cannot be mutually exclusive. You can have a child that loves iPads as much as they love forest walks. We do! Lucy says:
"I think we are the unfortunate generation of parents who are lumped with having to muddle our way through this technology and social media and internet saturated life whilst trying to hold on to values that are important to us. On the other hand perhaps we are the fortunate ones - we can carve a way for future generations! What a privilege and responsibility – let’s make the journey of childhood in the 21st century one filled with empathy and respect and connection."
I really LOVED reading this (and you should definitely give it a read too) because it cemented our conversations around why we moved the TV out of our immediate convenience. It wasn't/isn't that TV is bad for us (advertising though - whoosh - that stuff is lethal to our well-being) but it was hindering us from modelling something a bit more balanced.
We weren't modelling our creativity for Levi, but we were expecting him to be interested in creative things.
We weren't modelling good conversation, but we were expecting him to look up from the TV and want to talk to us about his day.
We weren't modelling the ability to be in the quiet of a room without the background noise of a TV on, but we were expecting him to make up his own fun.
For us, those expectations were a little unfair and something needed a bit of tweaking - this is the first step: get that TV out of reach and let's see what happens.
What about you? I'm not trying to sell anyone on this idea, I promise - but I am curious about how you feel about it all. Would you consider changing things up a bit with TV access etc? Have you? Let's talk.