I was in college when I first learned the concept of protecting childhood innocence. I had the privilege of meeting clinical psychologist Dianne Medved, author of Saving Childhood, in one of my psychology classes. One area she discussed was the negative effects of television on childhood. Her husband, Michael Medved, was a movie critic and had just written a book titled Hollywood vs. America. I had the privilege of meeting him when I took a class on the anatomy of film.
Many parents agree that television shows and movies are filled with so much immorality that our society has become desensitized. The Medveds point out that Hollywood uses its power irresponsibly. Most of America would prefer less cursing, violence, and nudity and yet movies and television promote such acts as ‘no big deal’.
Many studies show the connection between constant exposure to violence on TV and aggressive behavior. The incline of social violence directly correlates to the type of movies and TV shows being produced. For example, the Medveds point out that after a child watches a show such as Power Rangers, they are many times more likely to engage in acts of aggression.
Television also promotes growing up too fast. Children are constantly getting into adult situations and “succeeding” in them. Many programs also suggests that children are smarter than their parents and teachers, which diminishes authority and adds to the sense of entitlement in our society. Men are often depicted as stupider than their wives/girlfriends, and relationships are portrayed not as a partnership, but that women are in control. But, such behavior is okay because it’s only meant to be cute and funny.
I also disdain the prevalence of dating and the encouragement of boyfriend/girlfriend relationships in young teens. What’s the rush? There are decades of adulthood, but only a few years of childhood – we must encourage our children to enjoy it, not pretend to be grownups.
Limiting TV is often a struggle for me because I’m a busy mom. In our home when we watch shows that may contain questionable situations, I join my children for a few episodes. I’ve very selective, even when it comes to the Disney Channel because the messages are so subtle. On one of our favorite shows, the mother frequently tries to steal the media spotlight (which is typically quite funny) but I often point out how selfish and inappropriate the behavior is.
A great resource my husband and I use when we’re trying to decide if we should take our children to a movie is Plugged In by Focus on the Family. They do reviews and give specific details. We really appreciate this site!
Both these books by the Medveds break down the problem of television into much more detail and I highly recommend parents read through them. What people focus on and put into their minds affects them in one way or another, so what we allow our children to participate in will have consequences. As parents, we’re responsible to God for how we raise our children. We must protect them and limit their exposure to the negative influences on television.