In 2010 I sold our TV. Seems a little extreme, huh? I’ll be the first to admit it was. I remember sitting on the couch the night before I was to meet the man I sold it to, feeling like I had completely lost my mind. It was a relatively rash decision. As a single mom, money was incredibly tight. We couldn’t afford cable or gaming systems, so its uses were pretty limited. Not to mention, I had grown so tired of the available options on TV.
The first few nights without the TV were weird. I thought maybe I’d die of the silence when the kids went to bed. I thought maybe the kids (ages 7, 6, 3, and 1) would completely revolt. But in the end, neither happened. In fact, after the initial shock of silence and the quandary of coming up with other ways to entertain ourselves, we noticed some interesting things.
Without the TV shows full of rape, murder, and kidnapping, I felt less afraid and more secure. I honestly had no idea how many crazy thoughts these shows were putting into my head or how much fear they were sparking, even though I really enjoyed watching them.
Another thing I noticed was the condition of my own heart. Little by little I began desiring less at the mall and even the grocery store. What I didn’t have wasn’t constantly in front of my face, so I didn’t miss it. Of course, I can say the same thing about all of the “romantic” natured stuff I was watching, too. Without those shows, it was much easier to focus on working, homeschool, and taking care of my kids… instead of wishing for something God hadn’t put in my life.
Getting rid of our TV showed me the lies I had been filling my mind with and gave me the chance to reprogram. I’m thankful we did it, but I’ll be honest and say I missed having the occasional movie or show to watch.
One night as I was sitting in the silence wrapping Christmas presents, I realized that perhaps I had been a bit rash and “thrown the baby out with the bath water.” There were some clear issues with the TV no doubt, but wasn’t there a way to make peace with it all?
I began looking for ways to carefully monitor and limit what we were putting before our eyes while also giving us the opportunity to utilize media in a way that would bless the family, not harm it. Over the next year, I redesigned our screen time rules and created a Christian family movie plan we all loved. (Hint: this includes a new favorite streaming company, PureFlix. More on that later.)
We will dig into what my family learned and how we created our Christian family movie plan, but first let’s lay a foundation for why this is so important.
The Problem with TV
Despite the opening story in this post, I’m actually NOT advocating you get rid of your television, so don’t panic. However, I’m guessing you clicked on this post because you recognize that TV has a way of consuming our lives in ways we don’t want it to. So before we develop a plan to keep that at bay, let’s look at the “big fat ugly” when it comes to TV.
When I got rid of our TV in 2010, there were a few major motivating factors:
- It was a huge expense. I’m sure I don’t have to tell you this. I mean, have you seen the cable bill lately? If you’re paying more than $10/mo, it’s quite possible you are throwing money away. (Stay tuned for my solution, and yes, it’s less than $10 a month.)
- I didn’t like what the TV was doing to our minds or the thoughts we found ourselves focusing on. As mentioned above, taking the TV away completely made this really obvious in our lives. We were filling our heads with filth and lies that truly were harming us.
- TV was controlling our time and becoming an addiction we couldn’t give up. We all know how difficult this can be. It starts with just one movie or show and before long, we’ve watched an all-day marathon and never gotten out of our jammies. While this might be a great way to unwind every once in a while, in general it’s a very poor use of time. Without the TV, we are all free to pursue great literature, journaling, outside play, imagination, and adventure. And yes, we love those things… as long as TV isn’t consuming us.
- Television was sending messages my kids were either not ready to hear or brainwashing them with messages I never wanted them to hear. Ok, truth be told, this was a problem for me, too. As I mentioned above, fear and discontent had become popular feelings in my heart. I saw the same thing in my kids. I’m convinced that even after an hour of watching TV and commercials, we are all depressed over not being pretty enough, not having a nice enough house, needing a new toy that everyone else has, or wanting to live the perfect family life the screen promises.
No doubt this short list is just the beginning of issues we can have with the TV. The question is, can we find a way to make peace with the TV without tossing it to the curb?
The Ultimate Christian Family Movie Plan
About a year after we got rid of our TV, I was ready to start over. My kids were getting old enough to really want to watch some things and I had heard about this “new” thing where you could stream movies to your computer without the commercials (notably one of my biggest complaints with TV).
So we purchased a monthly subscription to the most popular service and started watching occasional movies or shows on our computer. Eventually we purchased a smart TV so we could have the computer back in the school area instead of the living room. Overall, we enjoyed having some TV back, but there were still some ground rules we needed to lay in order to combat the negative aspects that caused us to get rid of it in the first place.
I began by teaching 3 key concepts to my kids: how to guard their eyes (and heart), how to have self-control, and how to make TV more about family than self-centered entertainment.
Teach them how to guard their eyes (and heart).
To paraphrase Paul, everything may be permissible to watch, but not everything is profitable to put before our eyes. Establishing a standard of what to watch became our first priority. I started by approving each show, but quickly began to teach my kids what to look for in a wholesome show. We use Philippians 4:8 as our guide.
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.
It’s extremely important to teach your kids how to evaluate the things they watch. You can try to lock them down, but the fortress will eventually fall at the hands of a very crafty world out there. I promise. Instead of trying to be one step ahead of every possible issue, teach your kids to look for them and fight against them.
In a screen-filled world, I knew I’d never be able to make sure my kids always had their eyes on “good” things, but I didn’t truly appreciate the value until I was standing in the doorway of my boys’ room one day. My oldest son (10 years old at the time) was sitting next to the 7-year-old. They had borrowed my iPad to look up something for a school assignment and went down a rabbit trail with a video on YouTube.
I stood behind them and listened to see what they would do. The video was ok at first and the boys laughed at the silly antics of the kid on the screen. Then it turned ugly. He was name calling and using a few words we don’t use in our family. The oldest looked at his brother and said, “Turn that off, I don’t want to see that kind of trash.”
Yes, it was a proud mama moment, but it was also a really good reminder of the PURPOSE and BEAUTY of teaching our kids. We can’t micromanage them. It’s most likely that I wouldn’t have been standing there that day to help when trouble came. We must give our kids the tools to make wise decisions. I’m thankful I’ve done that, as my children will continue to navigate the world of “what to watch” for the rest of their lives.
Teach them self-control.
Once we establish a standard for the kinds of things we want to watch, the next step is establishing an amount of time we want to allow. Just like anything else in life, we can quickly get out of control when we don’t set a plan or lay down some rules for ourselves. This doesn’t necessarily have to be a rigid rule such as “2 hours of TV per week,” or “You may only watch TV from 3-4pm each day,” though.
In fact, I would strongly encourage you to think bigger than that. I start by having the kids make a list of the things they want to make sure they do BEFORE they sit in front of the screen, such as finish schoolwork, play with the neighbor kids, read your Bible, finish your chores.
As adults we need to make sure we’ve done these things, so it only makes sense to be teaching our kids to do the same. If all of the priorities are complete, the next step is to consider how long you SHOULD sit in front of the TV. In our family, we have a rule to move on to something else when a show/movie is over.
That means no marathons. One show is a decent amount of time to sit there. After that, chances are you can find something else you probably should participate in. I find this works really well for my family without being legalistic about time limits. But if your family still struggles, add in limits or rules for TV hours. You can always grow into a system with more freedom later.
Some families love to use screen time tokens with little ones. Since young kids are still learning to spend time wisely, this is a great idea and can be used to manage all of the screens in your home. Just don’t forget to graduate into a system that allows your kids to take responsibility as they get older.
Teach them to make TV more about family than self-centered entertainment.
I’m sure you can probably guess we don’t have TVs in our bedrooms. This started when my husband left and we went down to one TV (that we then sold later). When we finally bought another actual TV years later, it stayed in the living room. I found this did a couple of things for us. First, it kept everyone accountable for what they were watching. Second, it was a reminder that TV is best enjoyed with someone else.
When the TV is in your room, it can become a mindless habit. When it’s in the living room, you have to be much more intentional about going there and watching it. And by nature of the room, it’s more likely you’ll be watching with others in your family. I love this!
#NotConsumed Tip: Instead of thinking about the television as the enemy, use it as a tool to help build up unity and camaraderie as a family.
Using the TV to help us accomplish our goals as a family is leveraging a very powerful tool. My kids literally remember the words to songs in movies they have only heard once. I’m sure yours do, too. It’s powerful stuff. Use it as an opportunity to sit around the dinner table and discuss the character of the movie, the choices they made, and the questions that might have surfaced as a result. Talk about how you might have done the same or how you might have done something different.
I’ve talked a lot about how to turn something negative into a teaching moment in this post about censorship. This kind of discussion and focus is how you take what could be harmful to your family and channel it into something to build and grow your faith and your relationships. Oh, which reminds me, last but MOST important, let me tell you about the tool we use to make sure this happens.
You might use this free printable to help you talk about a movie once it’s over. (Hint: don’t fill it out while watching. Enjoy the movie, then spend some time talking about it afterward. It’s a great way to extend the fun, but also evaluate what our minds are being filled with.)
Click the image to download free printable
Christian Family Movie Streaming You’ll Love
Remember how I told you that paying more than $10 a month for great TV is totally unnecessary? It is. Oh, and it’s better than that. You can actually have wholesome content for that price! (No need to pinch yourself, you’re not dreaming.)
A few years ago, I stumbled upon a new streaming company called PureFlix. The ad I saw promised wholesome movies and shows at the same price I was paying with another streaming company. At first, I was a bit skeptical. I envisioned a lot of corny old movies and not much variety. I couldn’t have been more wrong (so don’t make that mistake, too)! PureFlix has been the biggest blessing to us!
According to their website, PureFlix strives to be the most family-friendly video steaming source on the web, and I have to admit they are certainly succeeding! My family loves that we can spend time together, take our minds off the regular stresses of life, and still be inspired and challenged all at the same time.
My kids love the movies including animated kids’ adventures, inspirational dramas, and wholesome family life stories. My older girls enjoy everything from the horse movies to the Little Men series, but we also love the documentary, how-to, educational, health & fitness, sports, and travel titles available to us.
My kids have watched every single one of the Torchlighter missionary series this year! We are also on a mission to watch as many Christmas movies together as we can this year.
Which reminds me, PureFlix is offers a FREE trial membership.
Take this opportunity to check out our favorite way of doing TV. I know you’ll love the results!