The challenge: Turn off the television
Laura and Phil Cone of Kokomo Indiana and Wayland, 4; and Noland, 2
Why they did it
Laura—a stay at home mom and full-time student—had been wanting to cancel her family’s cable service for a while. “Whenever I had work to do, I’d keep the boys occupied with TV, which added up to 10 to 12 hours of television-watching a week,” said Laura.
In the beginning…
Adjusting to TV-free life was tougher than expected. Though Laura was enthusiastic, Phil was reluctant to give up watching TV and playing video games in the evenings after work, and Wayland missed watching Sesame Street during breakfast—a daily ritual. Laura also found it hard to keep the boys entertained while she tried to do household chores. “I knew I relied on TV to keep the kids busy, but I didn’t realize how much—on the first day without it, I accomplished nothing!” says Laura. On the plus side, Phil began going to bed earlier to get more sleep, and Laura spent her free evenings catching up on homework.
Laura began involving the boys with the chores (Wayland folded laundry, while Noland liked spraying natural cleaner on the furniture). And while there was one rainy day where she caved and let them watch Wall-E, for the most part, the Cones stayed TV-free. “The boys entertain themselves by playing together more,” says Laura. Phil started fixing up an old truck he’d been meaning to tinker with, and Laura began spening more time sewing—an old hobby—and reading.
The Cones not only avoided TV, but also managed to limit phone and computer use by spending more time outside (they even started a garden!) and listening to music (“We found that Jack Johnson satisfies both the adult and child soul,” Laura says). Her advice to other families wanting to cut back on TV: “Have some ideas of what you’re replacing the television with—like reading together or having family game nights—so you won’t find yourselves missing it so much!”
The TV is still off—most of the time. When it is on, Laura and Phil work to keep the boys from just zoning out in front of the tube by making comments and asking questions about what they’re watching. “But we don’t watch TV all that much anymore,” says Laura. “Going without it for a month has definitely made us more mindful of our viewing habits.”