How much TV should Christians watch? How much is too much? How can we know what to watch on TV?
How Much is too Much?
Knowing the living patterns of the American family, we are watching way too much TV today. You can tell this because the buzz at the water cooler is always about the latest talent show winners, the singers, the reality shows, the dancing with…well, you know, and the funniest commercials. We are on a TV overdose. Consider the fact that the average American home has 2 & ¾ televisions in their home (I know, how can there be only 3/4th of a TV?). We have cable, satellite, local channels, and by the way, how can you really surf with the remote when there are 2,500 channels available like my neighbor has!? Now there’s TV on laptops, PC’s, smart phones…and (wait, they haven’t thought of it yet but its coming).
This is not to mention DVD’s, Blue Rays, and a plethora of other technologies that bring videos, movies, news, reality shows, sports, shopping networks, You Tube, beauty, C-Span (who watches that by the way?) and too many to mention and to numerous to cover.
The TV Babysitter
The most popular activity for children these days, if its not the Internet, is the TV. It seems that children spend more time in front of a television than in their parents lap, time spent reading or just playing outdoors (now there’s an idea…no batteries, electricity, or cables needed). We are allowing, passively, the TV to raise our children for us and what happens as a result? They learn the values of what is on TV and this includes commercials. The idea that everyone should be slender, blond, 23, drink this beer, and drive a sports car sets our expectations for happiness in things and not in people. With the bar raised so high, are we surprised that children constantly tell us “I’m bored”? This trend is not helping the obesity problems in our youth and it is creating a hunger for some very unhealthy things, not to mention that 30 second sound bites make us have shorter attention spans. This makes it very difficult for teachers. The days of reading a good book are dwindling. Especially since today we can read a book at our own convenience on a smart phone or a tablet.
There is a lot of research that says video games increases the aggressive behavior in children while also increasing the risk for epileptic seizures and, some researchers even suggest, increases the risks for ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder) or ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder). Excessive television or movie use has also been shown to have a close connection with the aforementioned risks. The Family Research Council says that nearly 89% of all video games have some form of violence in them. The vast majorities of these games also have unreasonable images of women and glamorize their bodies in a way that is demeaning to women. We can not expect the violent video games to not have some impact and there are many more reporting that their children are addicted to them and they become extremely agitated or violent when they are told to turn it off.
For younger children the violence in these “fantasy” games comes exceedingly close to the real thing. The violence seems to make children think that violence is more acceptable, that it solves problems, and it has been shown to create some violent tendencies in children of all ages. We also know that this trend continues into adulthood. Many adults are also fixated on these games and their violence and the continual exposure of these violent, aggressive acts desensitizes the child to violence. In other words, it makes violence more acceptable. Interestingly, for those who are not exposed to these games as much they seem to be much more sensitive to violence when they see it.
What to Watch on TV
When we are continuously exposed to television news, it seems to have a depressing effect and makes us more pessimistic about society and the world in general. Sadly, you never hear about the good things that are happening. Networks love to break into regular programming or have specials on particularly violent events like school shootings, mass murders, bombings and other tragedies. I believe it is just as important what you watch as much as it is how much you watch. I don’t watch much TV. I spend more time on the computer than anything else but part of that is due to the fact that I am a writer and part of my online coursework for college is online.
My wife and I love college sports. We love to watch college football and basketball. My question is not so much how much we watch but what we watch. The mind is like a garbage disposal. If you keep putting garbage in…you keep getting garbage out…and sometimes it plugs up the whole works. We do like to watch programs on history, sports, some news, nature shows, but outside of these, there is precious little that has any redeeming value for us or our family.
For a list of 15 Good Christian Movies on Netflix check out this link: http://www.faithandentertainment.com/top-15-christian-movies-on-netflix/
The Internet is very much like the video games in that it’s very addictive. If were not careful, we can spend just as much if not more time on the Internet than we do watching TV. Staring at a computer monitor can also increase the risk for seizures and epilepsy as well as make migraines more likely due to the angle with which our monitor is placed and the distance from our eyes. The Internet is like a bunch of satellite networks put together except the number of Internet sites is beyond counting. You can surf the Internet for years without ever coming to the same website. Much of what is on the Internet can not even be verified anymore and what is truthful or urban legend is hard to separate.
If we are watching TV, surfing the Internet, playing video games, or watching movies, we are not reading our Bible. We are not having conversations with our family. We are not playing, talking to, or interacting with our children. These things are being slowly squeezed out by technology and it’s hurting the family. According to Neilson Media Research’s latest report the American family now spends over 8 hours each day watching TV and with more TV viewing on weekend, American households now have the TV on for almost 60 hours a week! Incredible. Is it any wonder that the average American is becoming more obese? We don’t get out of our chairs or off the couch anymore.
I heard a great idea by Chip Ingram once. He suggested a “media fast.” That is, no email, no cell phones, no TV, no Internet, no video games…nothing, for at least one day of the week. I like to shut down most of these on my day of worship so I can focus more on studying the Bible, reading God’s Word, meditating on what I read, and praying. I guess that sounds old fashioned by today’s standard but God’s Word, to me at least, is the most entertaining of all and it certainly has the most redeeming value of anything on earth. How about you and your family? How will you spend your time? I believe I watch too much TV. Christians can watch TV and for some things they should watch, but how much is too much? What about the Internet, video games, email or DVD’s? That’s something that only you can answer.
Jack Wellman is Senior Writer at What Christians Want to Know whose mission is to equip, encourage, and energize Christians and to address questions about the believer’s daily walk with God and the Bible. You can follow Jack on Google Plus or check out his book Blind Chance or Intelligent Design
Resources: The Holy Bible (NIV Version)