Preserving the Family in a Disintegrating Society (3)
Written by Jack Westerink
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Reformed Practice - The Family

Lack of Discretion in Family Entertainment
Satan is finding an entrance into Christian homes through various forms of entertainment such as music, TV, videos, computer games, and the internet. The library used to be a popular place for our children to visit. We have been called “a people of the book,” but we are rapidly becoming “a people of the look.” The bookshelf in our homes is shrinking, and the video shelf is expanding.

The technology for internet, playing videos, DVD’s, etc. is all quite recent. Many of our families have embraced this technology rather quickly, without putting too much thought to the question, “How is this technology affecting our children?” The technology is not necessarily wrong; in fact, it is quite wonderful and amazing. From the comfort of our home we are able to communicate with friends living far away quickly, and at a very low cost. The world’s libraries can now be accessed from our home computer. But parents need to know what effect entertainment is having on their children. Parents need to know what their children are watching, and listening to. Safeguards need to be implemented to protect our families from the infiltration of God-dishonouring influences.

In 1979, and again in 1994, the Free Reformed Synod published pastoral letters warning confessing and baptized members to avoid “all blasphemous, violent and pornographic films, videos, games, books and magazines.” The letters also warn that “almost all television productions convey an anti-Christian perspective of life, warn against theatre attendance, all God-dishonouring music.” There seems to be an alarming lack of supervision when it comes to what children are allowed to watch, listen to, or play, and how much time they are allowed to do these things every day.

“Our children may resist our efforts to screen out the filth and violence that now permeates the world of television, but they know it’s right to do so. They will respect us for saying ÔGod gave us this home, and we’re not going to insult Him by polluting it with foul programming.’ And if the little box simply can’t be subdued, you might try unplugging it, selling it, moving it into the garage, hacking it with an axe or sticking a shoe in its flickering blue eye. Then gather the family around and read a great book together!” (Dobson, Newsletter, September 1992)

Problems with Pornography
*An estimated 11,000 hard-core porn movies are produced in the United States annually. The $10 billion-a-year industry is bigger than the NFL, the NBA and Major League Baseball combined. (ABC News Online, 1/28/03, supplied by Plugged In Magazine).

*Pornography is no longer simply a problem affecting men. Whether it's cable TV, 900 numbers, the Internet or music, your kids are facing a flood of pornography.

*70% of youth (ages 15-17) have unintentionally come across pornography on the internet, requiring Internet filters at schools and libraries. (Source: "Generation Rx.com: How young people use the internet for health information." Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, Dec.2001).

Problems With Chat Rooms
*As BBC News Online reported, a study last year by the University of Central Lancashire revealed that one in five British children between nine and sixteen use chat rooms, and one in ten have met in person somebody they communicated with online. Of these, three-quarters went to the rendezvous unaccompanied by an adult.

*A recent sexual assault upon a Calgary girl who apparently met her attacker through an internet chat room has prompted police to urge parents to be more vigilant about how their children are using the World Wide Web. The girl, believed to be 12 years old, was confined to a psychiatric hospital for two months following the attack at her home in late September. According to police, the man who attacked her had gained her trust during months of internet "chatting." The girl, who thought she was communicating with another teenager, had given him information about herself, including where she lived. To date, police have made no arrests.

*"There is no surefire way to stop children from accessing a chat room, Detective Lionel Busch told the Herald. "Nothing is absolutely flawless. A brainy kid unsupervised on the Internet--that's a scary thing."

Negative Impacts of Television
*While playing on the computer, watching TV or a video, no one in the family is communicating. The screen is doing all the talking, all the instructing, and all the interacting. The viewers are mostly passive participants, absorbing what is being presented, without really processing it. The information stimulates us visually, but there is not a lot of thinking that goes on.

*”Television viewing takes up time that should be spent on more valuable activities: reading, physical activities, hobbies, household chores, or socializing with family and friends.” (Ouellet, p.21)

*”The time that parents interact with their children is becoming less and less. A powerful medium such as TV becomes a substitute teacher in the parents’ absence.” (Habib, Hamilton Spectator, August, 1999)

*”It is a known fact that 80% of that which goes through the eye gate is remembered while only 20% of what is heard.” (The Gospel Standard, Volume 44, April 1995, Number 8. p.11)

*”Most research indicates that violence seen on television can have adverse effects on child viewers.” (Ouellet, p.22) Children have a tendency to imitate violent behaviour seen on television and frequent exposure to television violence can make children see real-life acts of violence as normal.

*”The fast paced fragmented format of most TV shows, with their quick cuts, zooms in and out, and instant replays, can cause restlessness, reduced attention spans, and in certain cases, inability to concentrate.” (Ouellet, p.22)

*”Television exposes children to adult behaviours in ways that suggest that these behaviours are normal and risk-free. Sexual behaviour and the use of alcohol and drugs are often portrayed in realistic or inviting terms. The message seems to be that Ôeveryone does it.’ Television characters rarely say no.” (Ouellet, p.23)

*”There was a negative correlation between amount of television viewing and scores. That is, the more television that children and teen-agers viewed, the poorer their school results were.” (Ouellett, p.23)

*”Children under two are just beginning to walk, talk, and think. Put them in front of a TV and they do none of these things. They’re not walking; they’re sitting. They’re not talking, they’re silent. Many studies suggest they’re not thinking either.” (Jacques Leslie, Hamilton Spectator, Tuesday, September 14, 1999)

Suggested Remedies
The secret for protecting our homes from Satan’s evil influences through entertainment is careful monitoring, and a system of accountability such as:

*Use websites to check out the ratings for various forms of entertainment:

Plugged In Magazine was created by Focus on the Family to help parents evaluate Video, Music, and Television. This website gives reviews and recommendations for use in Christian families.

This is a non-Christian web site that allows you to evaluate Videos. It gives a detailed description of the movie in 15 different categories of assessment.

The Entertainment Software Rating Board Website (ESRB) allows you to check the rating for Computer Games currently on the market with an ESRB rating.

*Host an information evening on family entertainment for parents in your church.

*Implement and follow-up an accountability system for your home.

*Learn how to check the history of web browser visits.

*Tell your children you are monitoring the websites they are visiting.

*Install internet filtering software and passwords to get on line.

*Never allow your children to give personal information over the internet.

*Do not allow your children to visit chat rooms; it is too difficult to monitor.

*Use MSN Messenger to talk with friends listed in their address books.

*Husbands and wives should hold each other accountable for proper use of the internet. This is a good example for the children as well.

*Open your home and allow your children to invite their friends over rather than having them go out somewhere else where you cannot monitor their activity.

*Encourage positive use of the computer such as researching for essays, emailing missionaries, and visiting Christian web sites in your bookmarks.

*Discourage the use of the computer as a toy.

*Limit the time your children can spend on the computer.

Conclusion
Parents are accountable to God to fulfill the standards set in His Word. God does not allow us to “side step” our Christian duties. “And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down and when thou risest up. And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thine hand, and they shall be as frontlets between thine eyes. And thou shalt write them upon the posts of thine house, and on thy gates.” (Deut.6:7-9). “For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps.” (1 Peter 2:21)

The task is great: raising our young men to be leaders in home and church; raising our daughters to be godly mothers and submissive wives; protecting our homes from the invasion of harmful entertainment. We don’t have to hide our eyes from our failures and pretend that God does not notice them. The comfort lies in the fact that He does not abandon us when we fail. Jesus has already met the standards that we can never meet. Pray to Him for grace and strength to continue with the duty of raising a godly heritage.

Bibliographies
Dobson, Dr. James. Focus on the Family Newsletter, September 1992, pp.1-8.

Free Reformed Churches of North America. Ad hoc Committee Report: Monitor-Related Technology, Acts of Synod, 2001.

Habib, Marlene. Minimize children’s TV Time, Pediatricians Warn. Hamilton Spectator article, August 1999.

Leslie, Jacques. TV or not TV, that’s the question, Hamilton Spectator article, Tuesday, September 14, 1999.

Ouellet, Ginny. The Health and Social Effects of Television Viewing on Children. Ontario Medical Review, January 1990, pp.20-25.

Let us take heed TV is wrong, The Gospel Standard. Volume 44. April 1995, Number 8, page 11.

Jack Westerink was the principal of Rehoboth Christian School in Copetown, ON and is an elder in the Hamilton Free Reformed Church. This article was previously printed in the FRC Messenger and is republished here with permission.