Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Protecting My Children from Public Television

With three young children, my wife and I (like all good parents) must always be alert and on the lookout to ensure that they don’t go off and get seriously hurt or killed. We don’t allow our children to play in the street, to play with fire, or to have easy access to knives or sharp scissors. Likewise, we are not only mindful about the physical health of our children, but we also want to monitor and protect them in other areas too.

One of the other things that we monitor very closely is they type of television show or video that they watch. My eldest, Micah, actually didn’t really ever watch anything until he was nearly two-years-old. And once we introduced a limited amount of viewing time to his schedule, we have been careful to be very censorious. For instance, as general rule my boys only watch either Veggie Tales, Bob the Builder, Thomas and Friends, and (most recently) The Wiggles. Occasionally my wife will turn the television on when Elmo or Caillou is on, but that is it. Even with the number of different programs, the maximum time to watch TV on a given day is about 30 minutes. Sometimes it is more when one of the kids is sick or if the parent in charge is sick, but the standing rule is that we’ll watch 30 minutes if we watch any (and many days we don’t). And after a few different negative experiences with bending our rules a bit, we have been even more cautious.

One afternoon I was queuing up the video so that my boys could watch an episode of Thomas and Friends. We try to keep the channel of the television normally tuned into the public television station (the one where many of these shows air) so that we can avoid toy, food, or inappropriate advertising and content. So when I turned on the television and was rewinding the video, one of the female hosts was giving a summary of the program that had just concluded (I have no idea what the program was). She summarized the program by saying that the main character (I’ll call him “Billy”) had learned about sharing. The essence of what she said was this,

First of all Billy didn’t want to share his toys with his friends. Later he found that when he did share his toys, it made him happy. So now he is going to share because it makes him happy.

On the face of it, there is nothing wrong with learning about sharing. But I was immediately following the logic of her council to further conclusions. You see, the basis of what she said is that Billy should share his toys because it makes him happy. She didn’t say that he should share because it made his friends happy or because his mother or father told him to. So, the base “reason” for sharing is because it makes me happy. And if the reason why we do anything or everything is because it makes me happy, well then we will have big societal problems.

Now, you may be thinking that I am being overly critical and that children wouldn’t take what she said that far. And you are probably right. But the problem is that my children don’t like to share. In fact, both Micah and Noah like to hoard the toys and play with one simply because the other is either playing with it or is intending to play with it. I must teach them to share because of a reason that is more real and more solid than that it makes them happy.

This ultimately goes back to a principle that I believe is true. That is this: Teaching good morals without them being explicitly based on Jesus Christ and the truth of the Bible is wrong. If I were to teach someone not to steal and my reason was something other than Christ and His Word (i.e. because it makes you feel good), ultimately the issue of stealing is up for debate and whether or not it is a good thing to do will be determined based on my immediate situation and not on Christ. The pattern of American society is that we have had good morals and good ethics because for years these things were explicitly taught and based on the Bible. Now, we are told that “the Bible says so” is not a valid reason for teaching the masses ethics and morals and that is why I believe we are seeing the increased speed in the decline of the morals of our society.

About a week after my television experience my wife calls me at work to tell me what she just saw. She had turned the television on to have the boys watch Thomas or the Wiggles while she was feeding Hannah. When she turned it on, the program “It’s a Big, Big World” was on. Immediately both of my boys were captivated because of the bright colors and the fact that the characters were all animals. The main character was talking about acorns, and as it happens, Micah had been introduced to acorns a few days earlier and had collected a handful of them.

So my wife decided to see what they would learn about acorns. Apparently, it was a pretty neat program that showed how the acorn grows into a tree. My sons were very interested. But all of the sudden, the main animal who was talking referred to the spirit of a certain tree. My wife immediately turned a Thomas video of ours on which caused both of my boys to be extremely upset. Why in the world would it be necessary on a nature-type children’s show to refer to an idea that trees have spirits?

Well, this just went on to show us, yet again, that we cannot be too careful about what goes into the impressionable minds of my children. Would Micah end up believing that trees have spirits if we’d have let him watch that show? I doubt it. Most likely, he would have asked a question later and we would have answered it and corrected his false understanding. But the point is that I don’t want that type of confusion to enter into my children’s minds yet. One day they will be confronted with Native American mysticism, naturalism, humanism, and any other “ism” that you can think of, but I don’t want that to be this day. And one day my sons will build fires, play catch near or on the street, and use sharp knives to do various tasks. But in the same way that I won’t allow them to do those things now, I will do my best not to allow them to be assailed by false religious and philosophical ideologies until they are older and more mature.

Raising, teaching, guiding, and nurturing my children so that, by God’s grace, the will come to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ with a sensitivity toward sin in their lives and the instruction of God’s Word. As their father, that is my task. That is my duty. That is my goal. And to do that, I will do all that I can in order to protect them from harmful influences.

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