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Raising commercial-free kids a perk of cord-cutting

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Raising commercial-free kids has its benefitsI’ve been a “cord-cutter” for almost 3 years now, meaning I don’t subscribe to any kind of cable TV package. I do subscribe to high-speed Internet — a necessity in this line of work — but I get my video fix through a PC connected to my TV and a Netflix subscription.

We’ve saved a lot of money doing that. According to 2012 data from the FCC, the most popular cable package among U.S. consumers, expanded basic, costs an average of $61.63 a month, or about $739.56 a year.

But we also have reasons for cutting the cord that go beyond money. We were recently offered a killer cable deal that would have added over a hundred channels, including a premium one, for about the same price per month that I’m paying just for Internet right now. It was slated to run for about a year, at which point the price would go up, and I’d probably cancel. Premium cable pretty much thrown in for free — sounds great, right? But after a long talk with my wife about it, we eventually declined.

Here’s why. Right now, our kids watch maybe a couple hours’ worth of TV episodes a day, but they do it via Netflix, which offers all the annoying kids’ shows you’d want from PBS, Nickelodeon and others. Because of that, they are never exposed to television ads, which I consider a huge perk of cord-cutting for families. For the first time in a couple generations, we have an opportunity to raise commercial-free kids without having to cut them off from the characters and stories of their peer group.

Kids susceptible to commercials

I don’t know if you’ve watched commercials aimed at kids lately, but they are horrible — fast cuts, flashing images and frantic voiceovers that are a couple of notches below a yell. And while most adults have probably developed a healthy skepticism toward ads, kids tend to take everything at face value. A 2001 study by Stanford University researchers found that exposing kids to just a 10- to 30-second advertisement can influence their preferences for toys, drink and food.

Maybe I was even more gullible than most. As a kid, I remember watching a TV commercial for Transformers underpants in which kids, upon donning said underpants, were transformed into the animated robots themselves. I passionately believed that if I could somehow get my parents to buy these underpants, I would turn into Optimus Prime himself — just about the highest calling a kid could ask for.

I remember bugging my parents about it over and over again until they finally relented and got them for me at Christmas, and being crushed when I realized they would never arm me to the teeth with laser cannons or be able to transform into an 18-wheeler anytime soon. I’m kind of still disappointed, to be honest.

Looking back at that experience always reminds how susceptible kids are to the powerful messages companies spend billions of dollars shaping and refining every year to try and sell their products. Maybe if I can push that off for a little while, they’ll be less likely to associate material possessions with happiness, the way I did as a child.

Being honest raising commercial-free kids also benefits me personally; not having those messages beamed directly at my kids’ eyeballs day in and day out has meant that they do very little of the kind of constant whining we directed at my parents to try and get them to spend cash they didn’t have on a bunch of disposable plastic crap. It has also protected them from most of the violent TV promos and erectile dysfunction-drug commercials that are constantly airing on regular television networks morning, noon and night, which has helped me avoid a lot of difficult and/or awkward conversations.

That’s why, while it would be nice to be able to have access to the great entertainment options on cable — and there really are some, despite all the dreck — we decided to keep our cord cut for now.

What do you think? Do you ever have qualms about kids being exposed to ads? Would you ever cut the cable cord?

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10 Responses to “Raising commercial-free kids a perk of cord-cutting”

  1. J says:

    We have also cut out cable. We do have a tv with a dvd player and Netflix, but that’s it. My son, who is 8, really benefits from it. His favorite activity is to play outside.

    More than that, not having cable frees up MY time. Since we got rid of cable, I’ve taken up two or three different hobbies and I devote the time I would have spent watching crap tv to those hobbies. And honestly, a used electric guitar and amp cost me about 6 months worth of cable. It made good sense for us all around.

  2. swandaughter says:

    WOW we aren’t the only ones. Love this article! Same at our house for same reasons – finacial and both mental/physical health. (also I had the same commerical induced toy buying experience as a kid – but with a curl her hair Barbie. Booo.) Netflix (love) – blueray – 3 local channels (weather and some sports if we find the time.)

    Don’t miss it – can’t believe whole families even find time for TV!?

    I am amazed at how so many people seems to just gobble up, and feed it to their kids, anything and everything pumped through to them on “the cord”… it’s like that cocoon scene in Matrix. It’s creepy that this is the norm… maybe that’s changing?

  3. swandaughter says:

    WOW we aren’t the only ones. Love this article! Same at our house for same reasons – financial and both mental/physical health. (also I had the same commercial induced toy buying experience as a kid – but with a curl her hair Barbie. Booo.) Netflix (love) – blueray – 3 local channels (weather and some sports if we find the time.)

    Don’t miss it – can’t believe whole families even find time for TV!?

    I am amazed at how so many people seems to just gobble up, and feed it to their kids, anything and everything pumped through to them on “the cord”… it’s like that cocoon scene in Matrix. It’s creepy that this is the norm… maybe that’s changing?

  4. Kostas says:

    Going to a life free of commercialized television and cable is a refreshing way to live. I find commercials as an adult, annoying. I’d much rather spend a short span of time watching what I want, free of the ads that drive me to unnecessary spending, which is why I only have a Netflix subscription. I think what you have done is great for your kids.

  5. Karl says:

    Agree 100%. No cable or network tv. Netflix only. We can watch any documentary we want when we want. This is the “low hanging fruit” of saving money while increasing your quality of life. My child watches approx two hours of TV a week.

    I send my kid to montesorri school. Surprisingly she is the only kid that watches near zero TV. We are consistently told how kind, patient and well behaved she is. Although I am skeptical I believe them as I have seen her work alone for hours on coloring, Legos etc I tend to think the montesorri education and the no tv are enabling her ability to concentrate (or its the organic food).

    I like this article. It’s 100% what we can do to improve our lives vs treating ourselves as helpless victims (which is 3/4 of the articles I read).

  6. I am contemplating a “No Ad November” and I’m excited to see what the results are. I love that you’re so thoughtful about the media (and ads count) that you’re subjecting your family to. Well done.

  7. T says:

    Been doing the same for a few years now. It’s a good choice. Kid soon turning 5 and usually plays something else while there is a show playing on Netflix he picked to watch. He does still up the screen time with Wii and simple online games, but no commmercials? Result- he eats healthy food we give him and doesn’t ask for Trix or Mc-anything (not much, he knows what these are and that we seldom have them). Great manners too, doesn’t have to have toys he really wants, just happy to visit them at the store and talk about how much they cost and how ling it might take to earn that much.

  8. dojo says:

    We don’t plan on having our kid watch TV either. She’ll watch cartoons we ‘clear’ out and stay away from all the crap advertising. You’re really doing a great job with your kids and I’m sure it will show some excellent results.

  9. Claes Bell says:

    Thanks for the kind words, y’all. Nice to find some kindred spirits here. I like “No Ad November”, Done by Forty!
    J, I agree that I feel like limiting TV generally has had some positive effects on my daughters’ creativity.

  10. Ann says:

    We have not had cable for over 20 years. We had internet service so that they could do their studies. Our daughter is 24 and son is 20. We decided that the cost and intrusion on family time was not worth it. Our son learned to entertain himself by playing outside and making things with his hands. He is a pilot now, works on the planes that he flies and continues to enjoy outside activities.
    I worked when our daughter was young and she was exposed to TV all day at the sitter’s. She has always been more into buying, being entertained and less creative.


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