Kids in Peril

Your Kids and TV

by Bradley Booth

Can anyone escape the assault on our eyes? With a VCR in nearly every home, it appears that our culture is headed down a road on which it cannot return. Big screen TVs and DVD entertainment centers overwhelm our sensibilities with their larger-than-life portrayals of what is desirable. Many people, including Christians, find themselves out of control, hopelessly sucked into the current of our culture.

So what can parents do today to counterbalance the technology and the habits that threaten to devour our time, our sense of good judgment, and our God-given creative abilities? What will help our children develop balanced lives--intellectually, morally, and spiritually?

1. Avoid using videos or TV as a baby-sitter. Outline clear rules for your children that define the amount of time they may watch television and/or videos, even Christian or religious ones. Stick to the rules you have set down as a family.

2. Don't use viewing privileges as a reward or punishment. This only causes children to focus on the attractiveness of the activity.

3. Encourage children to watch programming that is specifically child-appropriate, educationally informative, and prosocial in its intent. Resources for evaluating the appropriateness of many selections are available in Christian magazines, through parenting groups, and even on packaging materials.

4. Watch with your children. Take time to explain what is happening in the story line, and give them a chance to explain what they think is happening.

5. Give your children a "commanding voice" in making choices. If you have raised them to discern between good and evil, at an early age let them help determine what is of value (and interest), no matter how trite or simplistic the choices appear to you as an adult. Remember that your children are vulnerable developmentally. If you empower your children to equip themselves morally, they will surprise you time and again with their depth of insight about what is godly and what is not.

6. Encourage balance in viewing habits. Just as we attempt to provide our children with a nutritious diet, Christian parents will try to make certain that their children learn and grow from a variety of forms of visual education and entertainment. Nature videos or public television programming on wildlife may appeal to some children while animated Bible stories may fascinate others, even in the same family. A deep fascination with only one kind of visual programming, just as with a child's unwise decision to eat only one kind of food, may suggest more parental involvement is needed in helping to make quality choices.

7. "Is it godly?" That's a question I often asked my children. "If there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things" (Phil. 4:8). Does the video or program content make you, as an adult, feel a bit squeamish or uncomfortable inside? If you're willing to admit this from the depths of your God-given sensibilities, what's this program or video doing to the fragile moral development of your child?

8. Don't preach incessantly about the negatives. Instead, choose the right types of character-building story lines that can help to model a positive Christian lifestyle. Reinforce the attractiveness of that lifestyle in your conversations with your children.

9. Evaluate with visual aids. To help your children decipher what's good or bad about the videos or programs watched, ask them to illustrate what they saw by drawing a picture. A child's picture is literally worth a thousand words for opening your eyes to what has occurred in the mind of your child. Or ask your children to act out the scenes that impressed them most. This may clarify the differences between what you saw and what they experienced--and how ludicrous and trite current programming in the entertainment industry has come to be!

10. Discover other activities together. If the substitutes you've discreetly chosen are appealing, your children will learn to crave quality family time away from the "entertainment center." A good game around the dining room table, with popcorn and apples, can be exhilarating for children who aren't accustomed to so much of their parents' time and attention. And it just might revamp that essential one-on-one time you may so desperately need with your teenager. You never know until you try it--again.

Old habits are hard to overcome. Like some physical addictions, bad viewing habits die hard and can't usually be erased by sheer willpower or good intentions. The secret lies in replacing bad habits with good ones. With this goal, the transition will be much less painful for everyone involved. Most important, ask God to help you and your family to make these life-changing choices. He won't leave you to struggle without finding a solution.

Whatever the cost, we as parents can adjust our focus and realign our agendas. An honest inspection of our own time in front of the tube will make us ask ourselves some relevant questions: What is really important at this moment in my life? Where will I be 100 years from now, and will my children be with me? What will be important to me then?

In that glad day when Jesus comes again, and we stand before Him with our families intact, imagine the emotions that will sweep over us. What will we say? What could we possibly say but simply, "Thank you, Lord, that those You have entrusted to us are here with us in Your presence."

Adapted from The Adventist Review,
March 8, 2001, pp. 25-27.
Used by permission of the author and The Adventist Review.

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