Cut the Cord: Life Without Television

Fishing poles, enchanted cow sharks, and pretend fish bait. 

Our eight- and five-year-old kids were being supervised through the windows overlooking our backyard. My husband, Bryan, was called out to fix the broken fishing pole, and he overheard most of the story that was developing as they played. It turns out that when one has enchanted cow sharks in their imagination, their expectations for pretend fish bait are lower.

These are the things that happen in a typical day at my house, and I attribute it all to our life without television.

television screen free week no tv

Yes, we live without television. We own zero TVs. This has been our life since 2007. Ten years!

Why and How?  

Back in 2006, we lived in Nashville, and were expecting our second child. We worked opposite schedules so we would be the ones with our children, but we wanted more in our lives. After meeting some incredible people, we began a conversation about living in intentional community and sharing living expenses. We moved forward with that. We moved into two units of a triplex with our family of four, a married couple, and three single men. One of the conversations we had before moving was about television.  

Take a moment to think of your home. What is the centerpiece? What is the focal point? When you walk into the main area of your home, what is there? I would guess 99% of you have a television prominently displayed, on the wall or within an entertainment center. Your seating is arranged so that all seats have a clear view of this television. Not only does television impact your living space, it influences all aspects of your life. Your daily schedule revolves around when shows are on; you make plans, or don’t, based on whether or not you will catch the current episode.

When the television is on, unfiltered strangers are welcomed into your most intimate sanctuary. You fill your ears and mind with what media sources deem interesting and appropriate for you. Television babysits your children so you can finish “one more thing,” and commercials infiltrate your thoughts and budget.

The married couple we were planning to move in with was adamant that we would not have a television in our shared living space.  Their point was that by choosing to live intentionally in shared space, we must be committed to the relationships with the people, not the relationships we have with our things or the uncontrolled devices that bring external influences into our homes.

Bryan and I were not so sure. We enjoyed watching shows together. The television was a tool, a resource, we used in our family. How could we get by without having one to share? However, we really felt called to move forward with these people in this plan, so we agreed. We kept a small television and dvd/vcr in our bedroom. (Yes, I know. A quick google search reveals that most articles recommend to *not* have a television in there.)  

Making this change was a big step, and yet once it was made, the next steps came easily. When we moved to Iowa in 2007, we didn’t even move the television with us. In one year, we had discovered that conversations were more enjoyable, we did not need to be that tuned in to anything that was marketed to us as important.

I loved how my children were growing into such creative, imaginative people.  We found other activities to occupy our time; we learned to play independently and together.

Yes, we have screens in our home. We have smart phones, a tablet, and a computer. We set time limits and parental controls on what is accessible. Networks and the market have added options to better fit television into our busy lives, but that barely impacts us. We no longer feel pressure to respond to the television culture. (Full disclosure, we do have a projector and a large screen that we connect to our Wii and WiFi. But, the screen rolls up into our ceiling, and it is downstairs. Plus, no dusting required!) We are intentional about using our screens and focusing our attention on them, and improving all the time.  

Removing television from our life was the best decision we ever made. We make our own entertainment, and we are intentional about finding news and information that pertains to our interests. We play with things we find outside and turn them into whatever we create in our minds. Each year we participate in Screen Free Week to even further challenge ourselves to cut the cord and unplug from all of our electronic devices more intentionally.  

Long live the enchanted cow sharks!



Dawn lives life to play! Wife to Bryan and mother of four (ages 17, 14, 12, and 8,) she finds what she most enjoys and does it. Bryan tells people she hates a blank calendar; Dawn says she loves a colorful one. With a BA in Theatre and a certificate in Performing Arts Entrepreneurship from the University of Iowa, Dawn has successfully run two business and volunteered on numerous community theatre Boards of Directors. She currently colors in her calendar with Youngevity confidence consultation appointments, Chamber Singers of Iowa City board meetings, strength training and kickboxing at NLXF-NL, managing the office at BerganKDV, and setting as many dates with friends as she can. Dawn is passionate about respect and intentional choices. She loves coffee with cream, a good wheat beer, seeing someone discover something for the first time, and listening to audio books while driving.


    • Hi, Emmery! Thanks for commenting. 🙂 Great question!
      While I agree the Internet has many challenges, and we could certainly do better at limiting our usage of it, for our family, it has never felt as invasive or toxic as television. Our smartphones and tablets are not always *on* in the way most televisions are. We have to be specifically intentional with our Internet use and input, type in searches or URLs to go where we want and find what we need. The television stations make those choices for us, and we then turn it on and there is no more intentional action for us in the process. I have found we can install more control over the Internet through filters and safety features, and still be able to use it adequately, than we could with television.

  1. We rarely watch TV in our house. My husband will watch college baseball, but other than that it’s about half an hour a week to watch something on Netflix. We haven’t had paid TV in over a decade.

    My problem is the smartphone addiction. It’s way better when I forget and leave it at work. Except then people can’t reach me.


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