By Naureen Aqueel – Freelance writer
Most parents are prudent when it comes to their children’s safety and upbringing. They go out of the way to ensure their well-being; they carefully select their school, and they teach them not to talk to strangers and to be careful about who they befriend. Yet, inside their homes, they often leave them at the mercy of a complete stranger – the television.
From serving the role of a babysitter to just being the ‘background noise’, while chores are completed around the house, the television today is like an additional family member. According to a study in the USA, an individual watches television for, on average, 1,680 minutes per week. That is equal to two months of nonstop television viewing per year.
It is heartening to see that some families are standing up today and refusing to let their homes be occupied by the TV. While some are limiting the amount of television viewing or moderating children’s viewing habits, others have taken the bolder step of throwing the television out of the house altogether. Life is possible without the idiot box, they say — and here is how:
“I read, blog, talk to friends and family on the phone, and read and play games with the children (to spend my free time),” says Umm Abdullah, a homeschooling mom of eight kids. “The children play games, (computer time on weekends) and they create their own play themes; they also go out on their bikes and play outdoors. There’s a lot to do to have fun; we can’t seem to find the time to do it all.”
Umm Musa’s family has not had television for the past few years, ever since they started gaining knowledge about Islam and observed that “almost all television programmes either contained immorality or stupidity and that apart from the content, television as a medium per se, was addictive and highly passive”.
Asked how she spends her free time, Umm Musa replies: “I believe that time/life has to be spent in attaining the purpose of our life. While doing that, one does have moments of tiredness and a natural need for recuperation. (Non-Muslims have a very different concept of recreation and entertainment, which we have widely imported.) The following helps me recuperate, as well as support my life-purpose: reading good literature, meeting nice sisters, and going to the park.”
The choice not to have a television at home was more coincidental for Mona Siddiqui and her husband, now parents of two children. “My husband and I were setting up our own place then, and we thought we’d buy everything else before we got a television. We were both working at the time, so it just got put off until we realized that we actually liked not having a television. And that’s it – we decided to just never get one.”
Mona feels not having a television allowed her and her husband more time to connect as newly-weds. “We spent our time more productively: cooking together, reading together and so on. Once we had kids, it was pretty much the same – more family time.”
Umm Musa says not having the television in the house has “helped preserve our Haya and Islamic values and has helped the children become creative and capable of entertaining themselves.”
As more and more families begin to realize the perils of having a television in the home, many are stepping up to limit, if not completely remove, its presence from their lives. Families like the ones above prove that life without the television is indeed possible.