What else is the "television" but a window to the world? Through it we witness events, ideas, and concepts without which many of us would never have been exposed to. Offering up both good and bad, the television has done more to influence people than any single information media found in society. Unlike newspapers that only "tell" about an event or behavior, the television graphically illustrates it, many times down to the most finite details, and it does so over and over and over again. After hundreds of hours of exposure, it can cause us to accept a portion or all of what it protrays--whether we think so or not.
In the 50s and 60s, before "television" became so available, people focused on human relationships. Children were usually found outdoors, playing and having fun. Teens were usually busy on the telephone talking to their friends, playing baseball, volleyball, playing music, attending dances, and swimming. We were happy interacting with our neighbors and small town America remained a refuge from the big city where murder, illicit sex, and other equally unsavory things took place. Today, even in small towns, homeowners so often fail to even know their neighbors' names.
Before television, small towns were isolated from the big city. The distance between these small burgs and the big city was usually great enough that people worked in the surrounding community. This isolation kept children at home, playing with other children in their small neighborhoods. Movie theatre's in these small towns were also more sensitive to the moral and ethical beliefs and general mores of the surrounding community. Thus, these small communities were havens of rest where people spend most or all of their lives free of big city influences, such as youth violence, drugs, teen pregnancy, illicit sex, and more.
For a long time many folks who live in rural communities have theorized that this problem relates to the move of more and more city folks into the rural environment. Along with them they bring their immorality and unethical beliefs, as well as their delinquent children. The thought goes that the children eventually contaminate the native youth.
Although this may be true to some extent, I believe that the problem is more complex than that. For example, rural youth are generally more mobile these days. Parents often provide them with the transportation they need to visit and work in the big city. If the problem was isolated entirely to the youth, I might buy this, but the problem seems to include rural adults as well. Since the problem seems to cross the borders of multiple generations, I wonder if the problem is related to the advent of the television in the rural scene.
Consider for a moment the affect that television has had on rural children and adults alike. For children, the boob tube offers not only a means of staying busy, but it also offers a candid view of the big city at its worst. Drugs, killings, foul language, illicit sex--you name it and "television" delivers it--any hour of the day, any day of the week, any week of the year. Day after day after day after day. For adults, it offers the same--a ready means of apparent pleasure. It's technology, which makes life better, right?
What I am suggesting is that the television has brought the big city to small towns, villages, and burgs across rural America. In addition, whether we live in the city, subs, or a rural area, television makes it possible for young children with no outside access to witness the big city at its utmost worst before they've even had a chance to start grade school. Young children are like sponges, they absorb almost everything they see and no less what they witness on their parents' television sets. Think about that!
Youth violence is on the rise, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS), Washington, D.C.. According to a BJS report issued in 1998, 2.3% of the jail inmate population consists of children 17 and younger.
An estimated 2.3% of jail inmates were under age 18 in 1996, up from 1.5% in 1989 and 1.3% in 1983. There were 11,770 inmates under 18, according to survey estimates.... The Annual Survey of Jails, last conducted on June 30, 1997, provided a somewhat smaller estimate--9,105 persons under age 18." (Profile of Jail Inmates 1996, Bureau of Justice Statistics, U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Washington, D.C.)
Society marvels over how violent today's youth seem to be. We allow doctors to drug our children at unbelievably young ages, as young as 3 and 4, and when they grow up we wonder why some of them have problems adjusting to life. Frankly, a little known truth is that many of the children who recently used a firearm to kill and injure their fellow students and teachers were on a mind-altering drug of some kind (Recent School-Yard Shooters).
Unfortunately, as we search for the answer to this dilemma in all sorts of places, our childrens' values are being shaped and molded by the adverse material they witness on "television."
Let me ask you this. What are you doing to monitor your childrens' viewing habits on your television? Did you give them a television for Christmas? Do you allow them to have one in their room where you cannot monitor the programs they watch? What about a computer? Do you allow them to have one in their room where you cannot keep an eye on what they're reading and looking at?
Please take the time to consider the above thoughts. More than that, sit with your child and closely evaluate the programs they watch. As you do, think back to the kinds of programs that you, yourself watched in the 50s, 60s, 70s. Be aware that the degradation has been gradual, so much so that it was nearly impossible for the average parent to notice. It's time to take inventory.
Please do the right thing for your children. Whether they like it or not, police their viewing habits. Be aware, however, that the number of programs on the boob tube that are truly fit for children to watch are far fewer than you might think.
The survey indicates overall improvement in the number and general quality of shows aimed at children. However, all too often, "educational television" is still an oxymoron. Jeffrey Stanger worked on the survey. "One-in-five of the shows this year that broadcasters claimed to be educational, we found to be minimally educational," Stanger says. (Kid's Television by Stuart Shepard, staff writer, Focus On The Family)
Okay, they're going to kick and scream a bit when you get involved, but the option of watching any show that they want should never have been an option for them in the first place. Try to find other things for them to do. The VCR and computer games are options, but be aware that the number of hours that children spend in front of the television is excessively high as it is.
The survey also reports that a TV, VCR, video game, and a computer are found in nearly half of American homes with children and that children spend close to four-and-a-half hours in front of a screen of some kind. (Kid's Television by Stuart Shepard, staff writer, Focus On The Family)
Do you want your children to grow up to mimic what they see on television? If the answer to that question is "no," then why not do something about it now, before it's too late?
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