By Bob Welton
“Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it” (Pro. 22:6); “Bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord” (Eph. 6:4). These Bible admonitions are just as timely today, as they were when they were first penned by inspiration. Every parent has the grave responsibility to raise up his children as God directs.
While God-fearing parents strive to provide Bible study at home, regular, attendance at every worship service, and a constant example in every phase of Christian living, there is a plague in our modern society that many parents have overlooked; this plague is television. We, as parents therefore need to stop and take a close look and give careful attention to the effect television is having on our children. Our proposition for consideration is-while we are striving to maintain a wholesome diet of spiritual food for our children through every medium of Bible exposure, is this being offset by the contribution television is making toward the decimation of our children?
Influence of Television
The question of influence of television on the young has been and is of special concern. “As a child is developing, he learns values and morals primarily through five given sources; home, community, church, school and television.” And the power of television is magnified in that it is seen, and something seen has a greater impact than something heard or read. Thus values of behavior are introduced with subtleness by television. Mr. Allistar Cook, in a U.S. News and World Report interview, was asked, “Of the influences that affect the development of a child, where would you place television?” Mr. Cook’s reply was, “I would say next to mother and father-far ahead of school and church.”
Since 1952 almost constant research has been going on to determine the impact of television on the young. By 1960, 55 separate studies had been made. The conclusion of practically every one of these studies strongly indicated that television violence was having a harmful effect. In 1969, Senator John Pasture and a select committee launched on a lengthy study and the results of these findings were that television violence did have an impact on youth. The testimony of the Surgeon General before this committee was, “It is clear that the causal relationship between television violence and anti social behavior among our young is sufficient to warrant appropriate and immediate action.”
Just what does all this mean to the Christian family? First of all, we as parents need to be aware of the role of television on our children’s lives. “By the time the average American child has graduated from high school, he or she has spent nearly 15,000 hours watching television.” In the average home, the set is in use for 50 hours each week.
Decline in Moral Standards
Next in our consideration is the decline in the morals of present day television programs. In 1973, one study cited, “The average TV viewer saw violence in 8 out of 10 programs and 9 out of 10 cartoons. Most shows today not only show crime, they show “instructive violence; that which teaches a viewer how to commit a crime.” (Emphasis mine, BW).
Then add to this the profanity, vulgarity, drunkenness (portrayed as accepted by all); fornication and adultery (again presented as accepted life styles); and a virtual host of other immoral and debasing things that are either shown or strongly suggested; we immediately and shockingly realize that television is no longer a clean, wholesome, family-type of entertainment as it once was (at least to a much greater degree), but rather is an instrument that only adds to a further breakdown in the morals of our society; particularly our children.
Now to ask–is there any semblance of a solution to this serious threat to the very foundation of our society? We believe there is, and the following suggestions are offered in the hopes that something can be done.
Of course the simple and immediate solution to this problem would be to turn off the “one eyed monster,” study and play together as a family unit as some of us once did. We have encouraged parents to do this (and continue to do so); but while this admonition has been made time and time again, most families (including those who are Christians) still watch television several hours each week! Since this exhortation has only helped to a degree, and has by no means solved the problem nor met the needs of the hour, let us look for some alternatives that will help.
First of all, correspondence with the three national networks can help. If enough concerned people will respond to this problem by writing these networks and voicing their objections to bad programming, someone is bound to listen.
A second thing that can offer hope is to contact the local television stations. While a few station managers contend that they are governed by the Federal Communications Commission and thus have no control over programming, most do say that each local station is responsible for and has the right to decide what it will show. On the subject of complaining to the local stations, one leading authority recently commented, “In the past few years, citizens have gone on the offensive.
It’s no longer a matter of complaining, after the fact; about programs they don’t like. These citizens (and groups) are compelling local stations to change their programming, even in some instances to cancel network shows.” (A good example of this occurred here in South Louisiana. In our predominately Catholic environment, enough pressure was put an the local station to cancel the weekly serial of Maude in which she had an abortion.) We therefore strongly encourage Christians to begin with this grass-roots reaction to this problem of indecent television programming.
A third suggestion to be offered is to write and complain to the individual sponsors of these undesirable programs. Mr. Robert E. Lee, of the Federal Communications Commission has suggested, “If more sponsors would refuse to advertise on shows of excessive violence it would be the most effective control I have seen to date.” And the way sponsors will refuse to advertise is for the American public to let them know of their refusal to use their products advertised on the shows they sponsor that are undesirable.
It looks as though television is here to stay. As Mr. S. I. Hayakawa put it, “Like it or not, television will continue to shake society to the roots, even if we do dismiss it as the `boob’ tube.” And since “the tube” does play such a dominant role in the molding and shaping of our society in general and especially our children, we need to be deeply concerned about the
kind of programs we and our children watch. May we as parents, therefore, redouble our efforts to provide the right physical, mental, moral, and spiritual environment in which to rear our children. And let us not satisfy ourselves by simply lamenting, complaining and crying about the bad elements of our environment; let us counter-attack and do something positive about it, knowing that one day an account must be given before the great Judge for those entrusted to our care. So may our influence both for good and against evil be set in motion in their young hearts and lives so that they may grow up with the right moral standards instilled within them and, above all, the fear of the Lord in their hearts.
Truth Magazine XIX: 22, pp. 349-350
April 10, 1975