Control Your Television!
PROPERLY controlled, television can inform, educate and entertain. It can add to the enjoyment of life. Without proper control, it can become destructive. So learn to control it before it controls you—and your children.
Writing in the New York Daily News, Dr. Saul Kapel stated: “The time to doubt the research has long passed. It is time now for parents to act upon it . . . and pay more attention to how much TV and what programs children watch.” The same can be said for the TV-viewing habits of adults themselves.
Are You a TV Addict?
It would be good to take an honest look at how much time you and your family spend watching TV. You might even place a sheet of paper and a pencil near your TV set, and for one average week write down, every day, how much TV is watched and by whom. Then add it up. The results might shock you.
Also, to help to determine if you are becoming addicted to TV, ask yourself questions such as the following:
1. Do you look forward to the end of the day so that you can watch your favorite TV programs?
2. Do you keep the TV on after your favorite programs are over, and keep watching others?
3. Do you do the above (1 and 2) night after night?
4. Would you rather watch TV than be with friends or do things with the family?
5. Do you turn the TV on in the morning if you have the opportunity?
6. Do you keep the set on even when you are not actually watching it?
7. Are you irritable during an evening if you cannot watch TV?
8. Do you become defensive if accused of watching too much TV?
9. Do you make excuses for watching too much?
10. Do you spend more hours watching TV than in all other leisure activities combined?
If you have answered “Yes” to a number of these questions, then this suggests that some degree of TV addiction has already set in.
How can excessive TV watching be controlled? First, there is the need to recognize that nearly everything in excess can become harmful to humans.
Eating good food is beneficial, but is gluttony? Drinking alcoholic beverages can be enjoyable, but is alcoholism? Sleep is vital for good health, but too much can work against the body and mind.
However, recognizing something as potentially harmful may be easier than taking steps to control it. And this certainly is the case for many with TV watching.
What good control requires is discipline. And that requires the right motivation.
It may be of help to approach the problem as you would if your doctor told you to avoid a practice that was damaging your health. Watching too much TV is a practice that can be harmful to mental and physical health. Knowing this may motivate some to develop the discipline needed for moderation.
To help to control TV, some have put their set in a place where it is inconvenient to spend long hours with it. This may be in a room that is more widely used by all family members. Some have put the TV in a cabinet or a closet, requiring effort to prepare for viewing. Also, since a bedroom is too conducive to lying down and watching for long periods, many will not have a TV there.
Some families have a schedule, watching TV just for certain programs, and the set remains off the rest of the time. Substituting other activities helps too, such as setting aside certain evenings for family discussions, reading, or other types of recreation that involve the entire family.
Of course, even moderation can be unproductive if the programs watched highlight wrong ideas. So attention needs to be given to program content.
Controlling Children’s Viewing
Parents have a serious responsibility to direct the TV habits of their young ones. Some parents will say a firm “No” to a child who wants to play on a busy street, since danger is involved. But the same parents will let their children have uncontrolled access to TV. So they must learn to make their “No” mean just that. And most children will stop nagging parents about TV when they realize that their parents will not give in.
Of course, no one can set rules for what parents should do in this matter. But it is of interest to see what others have done with success. For example, some limit the number of viewing hours they allow their children during school days to just one hour a day, or a half hour a day, and an hour or two on weekends. Other parents have eliminated TV for their children totally during school days, allowing a limited amount on weekends and vacations.
Many parents will not allow TV viewing by anyone during mealtimes, or when it is time for study or doing chores, or at bedtime. And they will not permit their children to have a TV in their own rooms.
However, some have observed that trying to regulate children’s TV habits does not work well. One mother said that after a while her control “just becomes less and less, and pretty soon the kids are watching all the time.” Since she could not remain firm on limitations on a daily basis, she found that the only solution was total abstinence from TV for the children during the school week.
Parents also need to select programs carefully for their children. Some questions that might be asked in this regard are:
1. Is the program suitable for the child’s age?
2. Does the program show problems and conflicts that a child can understand, and positive ways to resolve them?
3. Does the program show morals, family life, marriage, and relations between the sexes in a wholesome, positive way?
4. When a child is allowed to watch certain cartoon entertainment, what is he likely to learn?
5. Does the program encourage constructive activities, or at least enhance the quality of a child’s play?
One American mother who kept her TV on during much of the day “just for company” noticed that her one-and-a-half-year-old son slept fitfully, and was crankier and more restless than normal. So she turned off the TV, and her child’s behavior greatly improved. He slept better, was less irritable and improved his ability to concentrate on his own play.
When the TV of a family in Japan broke down, the mother wrote this to a newspaper: “The life pattern of my two children, seven- and five-year-old boys, has since shown a remarkable change. Before the TV broke, my boys watched TV only after dinner. They never listened to my suggestions to read books. But now that the TV is broken, they are quite eager to read books.” Many other Japanese parents wrote of similar improvements in behavior and schoolwork after controlling their children’s TV habits.
In the United States, parents have had similar experiences when the TV broke down and was not soon replaced. One said: “At first my children were lost. What should they do with their time? Gradually, however, other activities took over. We began to play family games together, and reading picked up. Family conversations became more frequent and prolonged, with an exchange of opinions and feelings, and more time seemed to be spent in outdoor activities.” This family did get another TV set, but had by then learned to control it.
Another parent who learned to control TV said: “I am thrilled about how much we all talk to one another now. The TV doesn’t delay those things the kids are avoiding—chores, homework, baths, bedtime.”
Conscientious parents are particularly concerned that nothing stand in the way of the home education of their children. Intelligence levels and abilities of children are greatly increased when parents help them to learn how to read, and expose the children to educational materials even before they are of school age. It has been found that even a brief home program of such kind makes a difference. Yes, the more exercise the young mind gets, the better it will serve later.
This is why parents who are Jehovah’s Witnesses are encouraged to include their children of all ages in educational activities centered around the Bible. As a result, many of their children develop into competent readers, which helps them greatly in their schoolwork and also in later life. Such parental home education, coupled with children’s literature that explains the high moral principles of the Bible, provides a foundation of great value. It helps to counteract the bad influences so plentiful in this world.
Too, since Jehovah’s Witnesses accept the Bible as God’s Word, they also accept the fact that it requires “self-control,” which would include controlling TV. Indeed, such self-control is an indication that they are letting God’s powerful active force, his holy spirit, work in their lives, since self-control is a “fruit,” or product, of that spirit.—Gal. 5:22, 23.
Thus, parents do well, not only to control their children’s TV viewing, but to make every effort to replace it with upbuilding activities. And surely, the same principle would apply in the life of the parents themselves, for thus they would be setting a good example for their children.
Yes, television can be of benefit. It can instruct, inform and entertain. But it can also tear down and corrupt, influencing a person toward immoral behavior, hostility, violence and even disbelief in God. Therefore, wise persons work to keep their TV under control so that it does not control them.
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By controlling television, parents can communicate more with their children and help them to develop their mental abilities