In our family, we wrestle with the influence of media through the television on an ongoing basis. We haven't had satellite or cable television for several years. We do, however, have Netflix, as well as an antennae to access network television.
It never ceases to amaze me how Hollywood sends un-Godly messages through the shows they produce - even for kids! The minute you begin to believe something is safe for the kids to watch, BAM! You are broadsided by garbage. Sometimes my husband will say, "I grew up on this show." But I'm shocked even watching shows I watched as a kid. I don't remember them being that bad, but they now disgust me. Everything from violence to potty talk to teens playing kissing games - I've seen enough junk on kids shows to make me sick to my stomach. Even TV or movie ratings do not guarantee a show is decent for OUR children (although, with the exception of Passion of the Christ, we, in general, do not allow our children to see PG-13 or above). We, as parents, are the only ones who can truly determine if something is appropriate for our kids to watch.
Here are some red flags for me in what my kids watch:
- Violence isn't ALWAYS a throw out - my children have seen Passion of the Christ, and we love Little House on the Prairie, where occasionally Pa has to set a bad guy straight. We know that in real life, they may be called upon to fight against injustice. Battles are a part of our world history, and God calls us to fight at times against the forces of evil. Within reason, we do not shield our kids from real life and what truly happened historically, such as the fact that Jesus was beaten and bruised for our sin. But purposeless violence just for the sake of entertainment is ridiculous. Many cartoons, even, have lots of fighting that isn't necessary. We steer clear of Sonic the Hedgehog, Ironman, Hulk, and even Spiderman. Sure, they may be fighting for a good cause, but too much watching these kinds of shows without parental supervision to explain moral lessons just isn't healthy. I have a house full of boys, on top of it. It's far better that they go outside and play "Courageous" (they like to each be one of the police officers) and do something WITH their brains instead of sit numb in front of the TV watching characters fight.
- Disrespect, selfishness, and rebellion is a big one for me. Shows that depict families where young people disrespect their parents, do things behind their parents' backs, or have a rebellious spirit towards any authority, I don't tolerate. I am actually sickened by how many shows Disney (and others) produces that show entire families completely self-absorbed, always putting themselves first, looking to dodge serving anyone, all the while, the audience laughing.
- Lust and teen or child girlfriend/boyfriend relationships - the Bible says we are not to awaken love before it's time. Since we instruct our children that they are to save themselves and their hearts for when they are much older and prepared to marry, why would we have them spend years watching shows that create a longing in their heart at much too early an age? It makes no sense, and is torturous.
- Unwholesome talk and behavior is annoying, rude, and ill-mannered! Since we are trying to teach our children to have excellent manners in respect of others, they do not get to watch shows where there is burping, farting, disgusting and inappropriate "potty talk," or the like.
- Aimlessness is an epidemic in America, where young people have not discovered their purpose, and therefore, spend their days foolishly. Shows that encourage kids to or depict kids doing stupid stuff and finding it amusing are a waste of time.
- Pretty much anything that depicts the opposite of our family values as being normal is out of the question.
CAN ANYTHING GOOD COME FROM MEDIA?
Sure! I'm actually encouraged by how Christians are finally putting out high-quality films these days that compete with Hollywood. Here are some things we enjoy:
- Documentaries are fabulous. We are a family that loves to learn. Netflix has several documentaries that are about great men and women of faith or history (who inspire my kids to be better), or about Biblical places, or historical events, or even science, that we find fascinating and educational.
- We are a big sports family, and watching the pros helps my sons perfect their gifts and talents. JUST WATCH OUT FOR THE COMMERCIALS - have the remote in hand to change the channel when necessary.
- Shows with a positive message - we love Liberty Kids, VeggieTales, lots of PBS educational kids shows, and a myriad of Christian films accessible on Netflix. Even movies about actual historical events are fantastic. We love Little House on the Prairie, and own the DVDs to season 1-7. When our oldest was very young, we started watching LHOTP. All the sudden, we watched her behavior improve, as she was copying Laura & Mary's manners and respect for adults. My husband said to me, "Please, let her watch as much LHOTP as she wants!!!" because he was so impressed with the positive influence it had on her.
We prefer our children engage in productive activities during their free time - anything that promotes creativity, learning, or serving in some capacity is productive by our definition. That's the direction we try to steer our children. We require our kids to monitor the time they spend in front of any screens (shows, games, whatever), and they must limit it to an hour a day.
What part does media play in the life of your family?