Parents v. Television — Seven Steps to Sure VictoryRANDALL 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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
characters use language we don’t approve of?
did characters do that showed their honesty or dishonesty?
were the consequences?
any character display selfishness?
was the end result?
there any activities that conflict with our Christian faith?
moral values were taught or implied?
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
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.
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.
Randall Murphree. "Parents v. Television - Seven Steps to Sure
Victory." Agape Press (April, 2002).
This article reprinted with
permission from Agape Press.
Murphree is editor of AFA Journal,
a monthly publication of the American Family Association.
Copyright © 2002