By Harold Fite
“Television is a dominant voice in America, and is a formidable teacher of children” (Eli A. Rubinstein, American Scientist, December 1978).
Children watch approximately 32 hours of TV a week. One fourth to one half of their waking hours are spent watching television. Over 98 percent of American households have at least one television set. A family may not have indoor plumbing, but will have a TV. By the time a child graduates from high school, he or she will have spent more time in front of a television set than in a formal classroom. Sleep is the only thing surpassing television viewing as a time consumer!
The influence of television over our children is tremendous! The networks and some sponsors deny it, but the evidence is overwhelming. Companies would not spend millions of dollars on commercials unless they thought they could influence people to buy their product. Children, on an average hear 400 commercials a week. It influences them on what they wear, eat, and how they entertain themselves. Children are in the process of forming their character and are at an impressionable age. They are great imitators, and they are receiving from TV, values which are directly opposite of those we would want our children to believe in and practice.
Several weeks ago, four young boys sat on a curb in front of the church building shouting obscenities to the passers by. The pleading of adults went unheeded, as more abuse was heaped upon them. Those disrespectful, arrogant, vile youths know that the law protects them, and they dare any adult to lay a hand on them. Seldom does it do any good, to go to the parents. Parents usually rule in favor of their children.
Where do these kids of tender age learn such filthy language? How can one so young be so hard, insensitive, and void of respect for others? Some learn to spew forth profanities from their parents, and others from their peers, but in my judgment the real culprit is television! Producers of TV shows are putting curse words in the mouths of children they are directing. Profanity has increased among children as it has grown and become commonplace in television programing. Children watching TV are treated to a steady diet of four letter words. It becomes “cute,” the “in thing,” and provokes a few laughs, expresses irreverence, and provides a shocking effect on others. And in a perverted way helps to establish one’s independency – a “don’t care attitude.” It’s smart and gets attention. Many of the phrases are identical with those heard in movie houses and on television. One can’t constantly take this trash into the mind without being affected.
The influence of TV cannot be limited to bad language. What about violence? Is there a relationship between television and aggressive behavior? Experimental studies support the view that viewing violence increases the likelihood of children engaging in aggressive behavior.
If we have encountered violence, we know it is to be more sickening than thrilling, but simulated violence is dramatic, exciting, and entertaining. Children may find it difficult to distinguish between fact and fiction. It encourages our children to perceive as normal and real that which fits the established fantasies of our society. Actual crimes have been committed as a result of seeing it on TV.
Television also presents a distorted view of sex. It encourages sexual immorality. That which is pure becomes harsh, hurtful, and manipulative. It glorifies sex among the unmarried and presents it as the norm. Children are even used in sexual scenes. Homosexuality is dignified.
Dr. W. Cody Wilson, past executive director of the U.S. Commission on Obscenity and Pornography, after seeing most studies on the subject, concluded that “there is a positive connection between moral depravity and pornography.” A man in Chicago, after seeing a sexually stimulating movie, and having dragged his victim off the street and into an alley, said, “I had to rape somebody!”
A 17-year-old in Atlanta, standing over the nude, stabbed, dead body of a 24-year-old woman confessed that he had committed the crime, down to the last detail, of a movie he had seen two weeks previously.
Parents are not immune to the influential power of television. It has changed parents’ concept relative to rearing children. The TV has become the baby-sitter, the magic storyteller, and the educational and entertainment center. Children are treated like adults, left to make difficult decisions they are incapable of making. Discipline is not maintained. Parents have accepted the sexual permissiveness of their children. Sex among unmarried children is recognized as normal by the parents (even providing pregnancy preventatives for their children). Homosexuality is accepted as an alternate life style. Families no longer eat together, and when meals are consumed it is in front of the TV. Materialism is stressed and the Bible and religion are ridiculed. All of the above and myriads of other things have appeared on family oriented shows. True moral values are being compromised and undermined while “brain-washed” parents, not only allow it to happen, but being mesmerized by the power of television, contribute to it.
A child may not curse, become promiscuous, or go out and kill someone because of watching TV, but I am concerned with the gradual conditioning effect it has on them. It becomes a part of the whole picture of what we think. It effects how we view people and things. Sin becomes no longer exceedingly sinful. We cease to be outraged by it. It desensitizes us. Children have a basic need for protection from these adverse influences of television and parents must fulfill that need.
The cliche, “garbage in – garbage out,” applies here. We are to protect our hearts from anything that would pollute our minds. “For as a man thinketh in his heart, so is he” (Psa. 23:7). Evil comes from the heart, and out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks (Matt. 12:34,35; 15:1619). To think evil is to be evil (Gen. 6:15). To think good is to be good (Phil. 4:8). The Devil knows that if he can control our mind – he has us! We are to keep our heart with all diligence for out of it are the issues of life (Prov. 4:23).
Parents have a responsibility to their children to regulate TV viewing. It is destroying the moral fiber of our youth. Parents must know when to turn the set off and have the courage to do so. We would not bring alcoholic beverages into our homes, or allow visitors to use vulgar language, commit acts of violence, nor allow fornication under our roof. Yet all these things are brought into the home by way of television.
Parents must limit the time for TV viewing, and determine the content of the program to be seen. I will not presume to make guidelines for others, but whether you limit your children to one hour viewing per day and two on Saturday and Sunday, or some other plan, regulating the viewing time and content is a must.
Television does affect behavior. Control the TV!
Guardian of Truth XXXIII: 12, pp. 370-371
June 15, 1989