Television In The Home – Yes or No?
The timeline of the development of the modern television set is a compounded and extensive one, ranging from Faraday’s discovery of electromagnetic induction in the early 1800s to Caselli’s transmission of still images in the 1860s to the developmental methods—mechanical or electronic?—pursued in the early 1900s. The timeline showcases the genius of man, yet I wonder if any of them had fully realized the magnitude of their contributions. Did Nipkow anticipate 98% of American families owning at least one television set? Did Farnsworth foresee people paying $2 million for 30 seconds of airtime during a football game? Did any of those scientists and inventors predict that their discoveries would be a factor in one of the most significant inventions of the twentieth century? And while they contributed to the America’s seemingly ever-expanding technological future, did any of them realize that they would also contribute to her moral demise?
“Neither shalt thou bring an abomination into thine house, lest thou be a cursed thing like it: but thou shalt utterly detest it, and thou shalt utterly abhor it; for it is a cursed thing.”(Deteronomy 7:26)
A former chairman of the National Broadcasting Company (NBC) once said, “If we can start changing attitudes in this country, we can start changing behavior.”What does that mean? If a television network can influence you to believe a certain way about something, the network can influence your behavior. For example, if a television show were to continually promote violence in an appealing, exciting manner, the viewer is more likely to believe that aggressive behavior—as long as it is committed in the same context shown on television—is acceptable. If a show were to promote immoral living in a comical, engaging manner, the viewer is more likely to believe that loose living is appropriate and even fun. “For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he…” (Proverbs 23:7) “Neither shalt thou bring an abomination into thine house, lest thou be a cursed thing like it: but thou shalt utterly detest it, and thou shalt utterly abhor it; for it is a cursed thing.”(Deteronomy 7:26)
What, then, is the answer? Do we completely discount the credible benefits of having a television in the home (i.e., for watching the news or documentaries, viewing wholesome films with the family, etc.) and rid our homes of probable negative influence? For young people, the decision falls to the parent; and the parent must decide what is best for the family unit. And in making that decision, the parent must recognize and evaluate the potential dangers of having a television in the home:
1. Television wastes time. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, by the time a person reaches age 70, he will have spent 7 to 10 years of his life watching television. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, children spend nearly 4 hours a day watching television, DVDs and videos. Other studies have shown that children spend more time watching television than they do in any other activity except sleep. Surely, this time can be spent in better, more productive, ways!
2. Television influences behavior. According to a report prepared by the Senate Committee on the Judiciary, by age 18, an American child will have seen 16,000 simulated murders and 200,000 acts of violence. In a survey, 62% of teenagers admitted that viewing immorality on the television had influenced them to be immoral. The majority of programming today is not written with a goal of pleasing God and influencing His children to “walk uprightly.” You must remember that the development of television is no longer in the hands of lone scientists and inventors—the field is now dominated by shrewd businessmen and corporate giants that give their audiences what they want: “…the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life…” (I John 2:16)
3. Television wastes money. I once heard someone say that the average American will spend over $500 on the television in one year. That includes paying for cable, purchasing DVDs and video games, and similar media. There’s nothing wrong with spending an evening with the family watching a film or periodically playing a video game with a son or daughter; there is something extremely wrong, however, with letting those activities monopolize quality time with the family and our finances. Think about how that money could be better spent—on the work of the Lord, toward a family outing, for a savings plan, etc.
4. Television dulls relationships within the family. According to the American Family Research Council, the average parent spends less than 39 minutes a day? in meaningful conversation with his children. What are your children’s dreams, ambitions, goals, etc.? What are their fears or insecurities? What do they want to be when they grow up? What books of the Bible are they reading right now? What have they been praying about lately? Talk with them, and let them talk with you. It’s easier for both to do this when the television is turned off.
5. Television affects the attention span. Consider the camera angles of the average television program. How many seconds is it before the angle changes? Consider the timeline of the program. Most programs jump from morning to noon to evening in a matter of minutes. Consider commercials. How long are these commercials, and what methods are employed to keep your attention? Now, think of a classroom setting or even a Sunday morning service. Is it any wonder that young people and adults alike find it difficult to pay attention or stay awake when they should be paying attention?
6. Television creates a false sense of reality. Some people are living in a world of fantasy. They want to be like the men or women they see on the television or live the same kind of lifestyle. What good can come of that? “He that loveth silver shall not be satisfied with silver; nor he that loveth abundance with increase: this is also vanity. When goods increase, they are increased that eat them: and what good is there to the owners thereof, saving the beholding of them with their eyes?”(Ecclesiastes 5:10-11)
7. Television glamorizes godless heroes. Children’s heroes should not be in the Hollywood crowd or solely in the professional sports arenas. Their heroes should be their parents, their pastors, their youth pastors, and others who characterize godliness and Christian living.
Like any other invention of modern man, the problem is not in the actual invention—the problem lies with how we use it. And if a parent decides to have a television in his home, then guidelines should be set. Here are just a few that may be a help to some:
1. Make the Lord preeminent in your home. Perhaps you could institute the rule that the television cannot be turned on until everyone in the house has read his Bible and prayed that day. “And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.” (II Timothy 3:15)
2. Limit the number of hours spent watching television per day or week.
3. Keep the television out of a child’s room. I heard someone once say that 44% of children watch something different when they’re alone than with their parents, meaning that when parents leave the room, a different program is watched.
4. Set up guidelines of what can and cannot be watched. “I will set no wicked thing before mine eyes: I hate the work of them that turn aside; it shall not cleave to me.” (Psalm 101:3)
5. Set an example. Children are observant, and they can recognize when their parents are following different standards that they themselves have set for the family.
Is it wrong, then, to own a television? No. Should you own one or remove the one from your house that you presently own? That’s for you to decide. You can be a godly Christian and own a TV, and you can be a godly Christian and not own a TV. This article is not meant to dictate anybody’s actions but to prompt thinking about bringing a television into the Christian home.