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Raising commercial-free kids a perk of cord-cutting

I’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?