The Prophet (sa) said: “Take advantage of five matters before five other matters: your youth before you become old; your health, before you fall sick; your wealth, before you become poor; your free time before you become preoccupied, and your life, before your death.” This Hadeeth teaches us the importance of time and its right use. Every day is a precious gift to us by Allah (swt) and we should make the best use of it- remembering the ultimate goal of pleasing Allah (swt) and not letting a minute to be wasted. This is not to say that we should constantly work and pray, because Islam teaches us to find the right balance and we have the right to rest. Rather, wastefulness is giving time to things and activities that take us further from Allah (swt) and lower our Iman. And some of the most common time thieves nowadays are- watching TV and listening to popular music.
TV – the vital or the virus?
One might ask, “What is wrong with the TV? Why to vilify it, when it’s so common it has practically become part of our lives?” The TV box may be on constantly, and we would hardly give it any thought – just letting it become the not-so-silent background to our day-to-day activities. Yet, if we have young children at home, we should certainly give it more than a fleeting thought, as TV has a profound effect on shaping the mind and it is rarely a positive effect. Even though there are some worthy channels with some content of benefit; the TV in general is full of violence, inappropriate images of genders and gender relations, foul language and un-Islamic ideology.
Also, the TV is addictive, especially for small children who may throw tantrums the moment someone changes their favourite cartoon channel; its content is beyond our control and by watching TV we simply become passive consumers of the broadcast. Getting used to this passive reception also leads to laziness and makes the traditional ways of acquiring knowledge such as reading, seem tiresome and difficult.
Some people may think that if they give up on TV, they would miss out on latest news, newest dramas, everything people might be talking about. But the truth is just the opposite for we miss out on real life, meaningful activities and authentic human interaction, because we spent too much time watching the telly. And same goes for children. Yes, they might learn their phonics and counting quicker from the TV cartoons, but they will miss out on learning good habits and socialising with other family members and guests. Considering all these arguments, I decided that my family would be better off without the TV, but how to make the switch off painless for children (and everybody else)?
Watching TV easily becomes an addiction and breaking off the habit may be more difficult than just turning off the set. It might be a little easier for the grown-ups, once they realize that spending time in front of TV or listening to useless songs really diverts our mind from worthy activities and thoughts and lowers our productivity.
It’s never too late to change
When trying to make a change, it’s always a good idea to replace a bad habit with a good one. For example- if we are used to watching the TV in the afternoon to relax and rest, we might instead reach out for a book or go for a walk. If we get into the habit of listening to music while doing kitchen work or any other household chore, we could instead turn on the CD with the Quran recitation or get busy with Dhikr. Just keeping in mind, why we want to make a change should be enough to keep us motivated through the difficult early stages.
Yet, the children may not be so easily persuaded. It might be much harder for them to understand why watching cartoon is bad and in the first stages they might express lots of negative feelings or even throw tantrums about not being allowed to turn on the TV. It is our role as parents to make the transition easier for them, while at the same time remaining firm about our goals. And this might be actually the hardest part for us as parents, because children occupied with watching TV shows makes the parenting job easier; giving mums a break from watching over kids when they are very busy.
Be there for your child
Yet, we should remind ourselves that the easiest option is not always the best; and bringing up children as good Muslims is our most important job and we should primarily focus our efforts and time on the right education. Once we switch off the TV, the children will turn to us to find them something to do and keep them busy. Expecting this, we should try to find for them activities that would be not only more meaningful, but also more fun for the kids. It would be perfect if we could manage to occupy our children’s time in a way that would be more attractive to them than watching TV. And if we put a little effort, they might not even demand for cartoons at all, preferring instead to spend time playing and learning with their parents and other family members.
Children who spend lots of time watching TV often have no contact with books and see reading as a boring activity. But, we should try to instil the love of reading in our kids from the early age; and that’s why, it is a good idea to build a family library and share stories together every day. Little children love listening to the stories told by their parents and looking at the colourful illustrations in children’s books. Little elder children are often interested in activity books and stories about other children. There is a lot of choice of good literature for children at all ages, and it doesn’t have to be very expensive to build the right collection for them with so many shops with good quality second-hand books available.
Sometimes, we do have a lot of work and we cannot give children our full attention, but there are lots of activities to keep them busy and entertained other than watching TV. Doing crafts, painting and colouring are some of the things all the kids love. Otherwise, we might try to engage the elder children in our own activities, teaching them to help in the kitchen or with any other household work.
I believe that with Allah’s (swt) help, the right intention and a bit of determination, we can give up the unproductive activities and make better use of every minute of our time. Insha’Allah.