Valerie Steimle has been writing as a family advocate for the past 20 years. She is the mother of nine children living in southern Alabama and is the author of four books and a weekly newspaper column, Thoughts from the Heart.
Appropriate Media and the Christian Family
If you’ve ever watched a three-year-old after he’s watched a kickboxing, beat ’em up kind of TV show, you know that watching television has an effect on children. Children play from what they know from experience. If all they know is violence and fighting, then that’s what they play.
If married couples continually watch TV shows about adultery, suspicious relationships, and divorce, their thinking is manipulated into imagining all kinds of things, which they never would have thought of without watching TV. Whether it’s forming moral values or learning how to save someone’s life, a television in almost every family’s home causes some damage, or does some good. As a member of The Church of Jesus Christ
of Latter-day Saints, we are encouraged to watch only the best of television programming.
From an LDS apostle of the Lord, M. Russell Ballard told us back in April 1989:
Most of us recognize both the many benefits and the many challenges that come from television in our modern, fast-paced world. Some of the benefits, besides listening to the teaching of the gospel, we can receive by merely touching a button include receiving instant reports of local and world events and updates on weather; watching fantasy; exploring geography; living history; enjoying good theater, dance, and music; and experiencing culture from almost every country in the world.Yet there is violent, damaging, unwholesome programming which is destructive and degrading to the morals of the family. A study done by The National Institute of Mental Health states, “Violence on television does lead to aggressive behavior by children and teenagers who watch the programs …”
Christian Family Life is About Quality Time
Not only is violence having an effect on children, but also how family relationships are portrayed is affecting public ideals. The book Familyhood Dr. Lee Salk says,
The media are often engaged in the process of distorting or changing our perceptions and the media have not, overall, depicted many realistically happy marriages. Portrayals of marriages tend to alternate between the seriously conflicted or destructive–from petty sitcom bickering to fatal attraction–and the sunny, Cosby-like ideal.
As adults, we need to consider whether TV watching is really important enough for us to give up our time with our families. Yes, there are uplifting, educational shows too, but when you watch too much television as a family, there is no interaction between family members.
C. Everet Koop M.D., a former US Surgeon General, says,
I think with television, we’ve lost a great big hunk of family life. There’s absolutely no one-on-one family enjoyment with looking at television. You may be edified if you are watching a particularly artistic or educational film, but for people to say, ‘I’m going to have a wonderful evening at home with the children,’ and then sit in front of the TV, that’s a fraud. Because with TV, there’s no fellowship, there’s no conviviality, and there’s no back-and-forth exchange of information between parent and child.
Every April the TV-Turnoff Network sponsors a turn off the TV week where they encourage every family to turn off the television set for seven days. It’s promoted as an experiment to see how people will survive without their television. From an article in the March/April 2001 issue of Scouting Magazine, John H. Ostdick writes about what happened to several families when they tried the experiment. What these families found is that during the time they would have watched TV, they had time to do a lot of things they didn’t seem to have time for before. Their routine for the day changed but they enjoyed not having the television on. They went fishing, played chess or checkers, put together a jigsaw puzzle, planted a garden in the backyard, baked cookies or read a book. In fact some families enjoyed it so much they kept the TV off after the seven days were up.My family did the same thing. We gave up our television for about a year. We went through some withdrawal at first, but for the most part we enjoyed each other’s company so much more. At night we would talk together about what we did during the day instead of watching a box. We read more and did more as a family and I kept up with the news by reading the paper or listening to the radio in the morning. It wasn’t until September 11th, that we started to watch TV again.
Christian Family Life is Improved With Less TV
Watching too much television is a handicap to good family relationships. How much TV to be considered too much TV needs to be decided by every family but gleaning the wisdom from M. Russell Ballard back in April 1989, he says:
Research data indicate that families that limit television viewing to a maximum of two hours a day of carefully selected programs may see the following significant changes in family relationships:
1. Value setting will be taught and reinforced by the family. Families will learn how to establish values and how to reason together.
2. Relationships between parents and youth will increase in families.
3. Homework will be completed with less pressure of time.
4. Personal conversations will increase substantially.
5. Children’s imaginations will come back to life.
6. Each family member will become a discriminating selector and evaluator of programs.
7. Parents can become family leaders again.
8. Good reading habits may be substituted for television viewing.
So, when legislators are arguing with TV executives about what they can and cannot do on television, the most obvious option for parents is to turn off the TV.This might be a hard decision at first and you might find yourself staring at one another for a while but the extra time you spend together as a family will pay off in the end. You’ll find, as we did, that there is so much more to do with your family than watch television.
Discover resources for improving your Christian family
by visiting the official site for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (inadvertently called by friends of other faiths as the “MormonChurch”).Strengthen your Christian family by requesting a free copy of the Book of Mormon
. It is a companion to the Bible
and a second witness of Jesus Christ.
Attend a local meetinghouse.
Valerie’s website: Strengthen Your Home.