TV or not TV


One September when our children were small, we unplugged our TV. One day our five-year-old daughter came home from a friend’s house. “What did you do?” I asked. “Watched movies,” she replied. “What kind of movies?” “James Bond movies.” The girl was four. We carved a new rule in stone that day: no movies until you phone home. Then I went over to visit her friend’s dad and wrapped his minivan in toilet paper. Not really, but I felt like it.


A few days later, I sat down with my boys to watch a harmless football game. For the 350th time, one of them had hidden the remote control in the VCR. Before I could locate it, an ad for the latest horror movie had robbed them of three night’s sleep. I stood to my feet, pushed the power button and calmly proclaimed: “Let’s blow up the television.” The boys were pretty excited. After all, they weren’t used to this kind of violence off the set. But when I confessed that I didn’t have any dynamite and was merely going to unplug the stupid thing, they weren’t so sure.“I can’t live without it,” said Jeffrey, who was four.“I’ll just die,” said Stephen, clutching his chest and slumping to the carpet like he was in an opera. “Tell you what,” I said, thinking quickly, “I’ll double your allowance if we can go without TV or videos for two weeks. Then we’ll have a big party in two weeks.” Rachael came into the room, clutching the dog tightly. “I don’t think I’ll make it,” she said.


Two weeks later we pulled pizza from the oven and celebrated 14 days without TV. During those two weeks, we saw some changes in the kids. And some changes in me. I missed the sports, but not watching TV freed up time for better things. Like wrestling with the kids, reading good books together and loving my wife. I found time to meditate on verses like, “Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right…it won’t get high ratings on primetime television.” (That’s Phil’s revised version). I even had time to put a short Bible verse on top of my television: “I will walk in my house with a blameless heart. I will set before my eyes no vile thing (Psalm 101:3).” Strangely, I’m more convinced than ever that we can do this without unplugging Netflix or the TV. We can walk before God with a blameless heart by careful attention to daily discernment.


By modeling for our kids the behaviour we want them to embrace. That night we ate pizza and watched an old movie. The remote control was missing, but that was fine. The next morning we found it in the fridge.

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