Parents v. Television — Seven Steps to Sure Victory

RANDALL MURPHREE

Pre-season hype last fall boasted that the major networks were going to push the envelope this television season with more profanity and more graphic sexual content. By and large, they have delivered on those promises. Here are a few strategies a conscientious family can use to gain control over television.

The NBC television network recently announced it will move away from family-oriented programming in favor of a more adult line-up. Showtime and Music Television (MTV) have announced they are considering a cable channel devoted entirely to the homosexual lifestyle. Pre-season hype last fall boasted that the major networks were going to push the envelope this television season with more profanity and more graphic sexual content.

By and large, they have delivered on their promises, especially in the area of homosexual characters’ sexual activities.

In light of the trends, some parents are simply removing television from their homes. While that seems the logical solution, it does not protect their children from a culture saturated in television’s amoral programming. And many parents are not prepared to take such a drastic step. Still, there are strategies a conscientious family can use to gain control over television. Make a game of it.

1. Define the playing field.
Parents who truly want to conquer TV’s influence over their children should reduce the total number of operating TV sets in the home to one.

Then locate it in a place where parents can most easily monitor the child’s TV habits. Some parents find that locating the television in a room that’s not easily accessible discourages the whole family from watching much TV.

2. Have a game plan.
Determine the amount of time you as a parent can spend watching TV each week. Then, sit down with the family and consult programming schedules to determine ahead of time what shows you’ll watch together during the coming week. Turn the TV on for those shows only, and for nothing else.

3. Have a coach present before the game begins.
Children, including young teens, should not watch TV without a mature adult present. It is imperative that parents know exactly what their children are watching. Children, for the most part, have passively absorbed many of the media’s values without adequate guidance to develop critical skills for evaluating what they see and hear.

4. Develop the skills of the game.
Watching TV with their children, parents can raise issues and guide discussion about the show’s content. During the program, make notes regarding questions to discuss. For example:

  • Do characters use language we don’t approve of?
  • What did characters do that showed their honesty or dishonesty?
  • What were the consequences?
  • Did any character display selfishness?
  • What was the end result?
  • Were there any activities that conflict with our Christian faith?
  • What moral values were taught or implied?
Use questions that relate to your children’s lives and maturity levels. Encourage children to develop a set of questions or a checklist for the family to use in evaluating programs. One way to develop critical viewing skills is to videotape programs you want to watch. Then you can pause for discussion at appropriate points as you watch the program.

5. Observe the three-strikes-and-you’re-out rule. When a program offends your family’s Christian values (profanity, crude language, illicit sex, etc.), turn it off immediately. Then discuss why you did so. Use questions to encourage children to reach their own conclusions.

Use a three-strikes rule to rate a series overall. For example, if “Program A” has to be turned off this week because of bad language, that’s strike one. If you watch again in two weeks and it has to be turned off because of sexual content, that’s strike two. When it gets the third strike, it’s permanently off the family’s viewing list.

6. Substitute liberally. Provide fun options — go for ice cream, watch a family video, do a good deed for a neighbor, go to the park, buy a new board game or jigsaw puzzle, or browse at the bookstore. It is important to have some plans in place before tackling the task. Get ideas from your children for activities to replace the hours you’ll gain as TV becomes less and less a part of family life.

7. Review the game and develop strategies.
As you reflect on your new relationship to the TV set, urge your children to identify ways to take a stand on issues. Be a good role model for them in this regard.

Write letters of concern to the networks and advertisers about the influence of television. Write letters of thanks for good programs. Write letters to the editor of your local paper dealing with television and other moral issues. Encourage your children to do the same.

As you learn to prevent television from dominating your family life, you will find yourselves growing closer as a family. Furthermore, your values will become a more integral part of daily living, and your children will be learning to make sound moral judgments in all areas of life. It demands time and discipline, but it’s worth the commitment to plant your family on a firm Christian foundation.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENT

Randall Murphree. "Parents v. Television - Seven Steps to Sure Victory." Agape Press (April, 2002).

This article reprinted with permission from Agape Press.

THE AUTHOR

Randall Murphree is editor of AFA Journal, a monthly publication of the American Family Association.

Copyright © 2002 Agape Press


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