by Cindy Tutsch

It seems to be time to change the subject.  So let’s talk about something innocuous and non-controversial, like MOVIES and MEDIA!

Regarding movies, let’s agree not to discuss where or how we see them, let’s stick to “content.” Thus, we’re lumping together TV, iPad, computer, theater, or even your smartphone. (I watched a waiting parent quiet her 2 year old at the post office the other day by showing him a cartoon on her phone.)

Let me make a bias disclaimer right at the onset: I was raised without TV. Wait, that’s not quite true. My parents got a television in 1953. My mother would hold up both sides of her green felt circle-skirt to cover the cigarette ads when my bro and I were watching cartoons. We were the only faculty family at the academy where my parents were on staff who had a television. Not surprisingly, other teaching staff wanted to come over to our house and watch TV with us, especially “Dragnet.” My mom thought “Dragnet” was of the devil, so rather than have the discomfort of telling the Bible teacher she thought he was urging morally reprehensible entertainment, my folks sold the TV. I don’t think they owned a TV again until they retired!

Looking back, I’m kinda glad I wasn’t raised on a steady diet of movies, sitcoms, and commercials. I have lots of great childhood memories of dressing up my cat, playing backyard football and softball with the neighbor kids, reading books by the hour, riding bikes, talking to God while roaming my dad’s wheat fields, teaching a “pretend” school, picnicking and camping with my family and friends, playing musical instruments with my family, participating in Pathfinders, picking fresh produce from the garden, raising pet ducks, winning ribbons at the county fair, swimming and canoeing. I don’t think I could have collected those memories watching TV four to five hours a day, the national average for kids today.

But today media is far more than movies or TV. Let’s add gaming, Internet surfing, iPods and iPads, YouTube, Netflix, Hulu, Apple TV/iTunes, Amazon Instant Video, Streaming, cable TV on demand, and smartphones to the mix. Here are some of my arguments against most media entertainment:

  •  Media may exacerbate learning disorders and bullying behavior
  •  Kids can become desensitized to violence. On an average American children witness around 200,000 acts of media violence by the time they turn 18
  • Media often glamorize and promote sex outside of marriage, including objectifying women or engaging in violence against women
  • Media often stereotype or underrepresent non-whites
  • Media alcohol advertising is powerfully attractive and creative. (If advertising doesn’t cause people to buy and use the product, why would it be a multi-billion dollar industry?)
  • Kids who watch TV are more likely to smoke than kids who do not read article
  • Hours of daily media contribute to America’s increasing obesity epidemic, especially among children. Not only does TV et al, promote a sedentary lifestyle, it also promotes junk food, another major contributor to America’s killer diseases
  • Media can inhibit social development as well as hinder family bonding and communication
  • Media entertainment is saturated with profanity
  • Commercials promote materialism through aggressive marketing of toys to even the youngest of children
  • Some research indicates that there is a negative correlation between media exposure and children’s academic achievement and creativity. There may even be a direct correlation between time spent absorbed in media and personality disorders.

What concerns me most, however, is the detrimental effects of media on our spirituality, whatever our age. Perhaps this is most critical for children because some research suggest media can have adverse effects on the development of the left frontal lobe of the brain, the area that controls moral judgment and self-control. 

In my last blog, many of us hypothesized about who would be pivotal in initiating loss of religious freedom in the United States. Perhaps a more important question would be, “Seeing all these things are about to occur, how then should we live today?” 

Scripture gives us some instructive principles for media choices. Three of my favorites are:

  1. Philippians 4:8 Whatever is good and worthwhile, think on these things
  2. Psalm 101:3 I won’t watch anything worthless, lewd, vile or vulgar
  3. Isaiah 33:16 Those whose bread and water will be assured [in the last days?] are those who refrain now from watching violence or evil

Though not all media is negative, its typical messages of violence, vulgarity, exploitive sexuality and consumerism are in direct contrast to biblical Christianity. Someone once remarked, “All television is educational television. The question is, what is it teaching?” With that question in mind, maybe I should conclude with three cheers for the HOPE Channel. View in moderation, of course, with no Twinkies during the commercials!