TV VIEWING—Should I be concerned about our family's viewing habits?

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By the age of 6, the average American child will have spent more time watching television than he will spend speaking to his parents in an entire lifetime. What's the effect?

Television has grown from a small entertainment medium to become a huge industry casting the single most dominating presence in our society.

In 1955 television was only on in the evenings with few choices of stations and in less than one-third of American homes. But today virtually every American home has TV and two-thirds of us have two or more sets, two-thirds have cable and who knows how many channels - all of this 24 hours a day. Now that is an amazing progression in technology, but it's been an appalling regression in social, moral and intellectual standards. This explosion of growth in TV viewing also parallels the growth of crime and other moral trends.

This does not mean that it's totally television's fault, but it is certainly part of the process. It's so much a part of our everyday lives it has to have an effect.

“While I'm concerned with some of the trash that comes out of Hollywood and the so-called 25 inch [0.635 meter] sewer line into your living room, that's not my biggest concern.”

Larry Poland of Mastermedia International explains:

“My biggest concern is the consumer because the person out there that watches ‘x’ number of hours of television a day, even if that person calls himself a Christian… he does not know how to manage his family's media consumption. And the typical family, the heads of family, the fathers and mothers, are not managing the flow of stuff into their homes…”

…we are not managing our media
to keep the evil stuff out…

I've had it up to here with parents saying 'I don't know where we went wrong. You know we raised our kid in the church, and he came to know the Lord when he was a kid, and he wants to look like a rock star and he's doing drugs.' The first question I ask is 'What kind of media do you allow in your home?' Because if we don't control the input of media into our homes and into the minds of the people in our families, we don't have a leg to stand on in defending ourselves against anybody outside, or God himself, when it comes to the erosive, destructive influence of media. So the most crucial point and the achilles heel, right now, of Christians and Christian families is - we are not managing our media to keep the evil stuff out.

They're selling ideas and values in the
many hours of TV and movies that people see.

Film critic and social analyst Michael Medved agrees.

The fact is, you have to change families first. And that means that parents have to monitor much more closely what their children are watching, what their children are listening to. And for goodness sake, try to cut down on the TV a little bit.

According to Medved, a recent statistics show that the average American child, by the age of 6 will have spent more time watching television than that child will spend speaking to his parents in an entire lifetime.

Do you find yourself saying “Come on. Lighten up. It’s just entertainment. This eye gouging and the filth and the language is just entertainment, nobody takes it seriously?” Medved points out “The fact is, they can sell beer - they can sell vacuum cleaners - in 30 seconds. They’re selling ideas. They’re selling values in the hours and hours of television and movies that people see. It matters. What Hollywood does matters, and we've got to care.”

So what is the answer? How does a parent reinforce what they want their child to learn?

Dick Rolfe of the Dove Foundation offers this suggestion:

It's very important today that parents dialogue with their children and expound on how they see what's going on in life - not to ignore it, not to over-expose it, but to identify it, to recognize it and to bring it into the family conversation… These family times together are so important because it's the only opportunity that we, as parents have to be able to share our values with our children. And after all, that's really our legacy to our children—our values.

The most important step in helping your children to be able to use the media properly and to become your allies in this media battle is to help them understand what your values are. Help them understand the difference between good and evil and what the Bible says about good and evil. Let them know what you believe about what makes a man worthy and humble and kind and loving and generous. You need to teach them those things that you want them to model. Discuss what the worldview of a program is. The next step is to get them to understand the media that they're watching by asking the right questions. 'Well, who is the hero? Who's the villain? What is the world view? How is the government treated?'

In an age where moral relativism is the popular thought, be sure to remember what Gary Bauer of the Family Research Council reminds families:

Our liberties and values come from God. They're clearly outlined in the Scriptures. If we fail to recognize that, then values and laws are open to re-decision every year, whenever 51% of the people decide that something is no longer wrong. That's a disaster and we've already seen the effects of it.

What are you modeling in your home? Where do you look for moral absolutes?

Content adapted from “Whatever Happened to America?”, a 3-part video series hosted by John Schneider.

Author: Adapted by Films for Christ / Christian Answers

More information

  • Learn about DISCERNMENT—wisdom in making personal entertainment decisions

  • cinema tickets. ©  Alexey SmirnovEvery time you buy a movie ticket or buy or rent a video you are in effect casting a vote telling Hollywood, “I’ll pay for that. That’s what I want.” Read our article

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