As we all know too well, TV isn’t what it used to be! This article provides resources and discusses three ways Christians are managing TV viewing without compromising their values, including: 1) No TV, 2) Limiting TV viewing to family friendly shows and movies, and 3) the AFA’s recommended option of combining the use of modern content filtering technology with a little self discipline to take back control over what’s seen and heard from your TV.
In the 50’s we had “Ozzie and Harriet.” After that came “The Brady Bunch” and “The Waltons” and “Little House on the Prairie.” Even as recently as the ‘90’s we had “The Cosby Show,” “Full House” and “Home Improvement.”
Today, we have “Family Guy” and “Two and a half Men.” Even good shows like “NCIS” and “The Mentalist” have foul language from time to time that we could do without.
Christians in America are faced with a constant struggle: How to be in this world without being of this world. And that struggle is rarely clearer than when it comes to television…
On one hand, we want to stay current, we want to be well-informed citizens, and sometimes we even want to be entertained.
On the other hand, every time we turn on the TV, we are at risk of compromising our values and even teaching our children to do the same.
Here are a few things you can do to keep offensive content at bay:
Option 1 – Get Rid of TV Altogether:
Many families have benefited from limiting TV viewing to family nights only…or taking a week or month off from TV…or even getting rid of TV altogether. Families in pre-TV days had more time for God and for each other, and it can be wonderfully refreshing to return to those days, even if only for a season.
Unfortunately, this option can also be very limiting. It’s hard for many people to give up their love of sports. TV helps keep most of us informed of the news of the day, too. I remember my own family had no TV back in 2001. When 9/11 came, I was on the East Coast, literally flying out of the same airport as Flight 93. Fortunately I was on a different flight, and I was only stranded in Wichita for a few days. Unfortunately, my family at home had no way of keeping up on the events at the time and this ended up being very stressful and confusing for them all.
Removing TV completely may be an option for some, but it also means cutting oneself off from the outside world almost completely, with no news or sports or current events. Yes, the Internet is an option that can replace your source for news and even sports, too, but it can be even more difficult to control. We can tackle this topic another day.
Option 2 – Find Family-Friendly Shows:
A growing number of families today prefer restricting their TV viewing options. In other words, they don’t subscribe to cable and its hundreds of channels, but they may choose SkyAngel or Netflix. But even those options have their limitations. Many families say, “Oh, we don’t watch TV—we just have Netflix.” Sadly, the content on Netflix can be as bad as anywhere else, and those same families often end up subjecting themselves again to content that conflicts with their deepest moral values. Content filtering technology that’s available for TV and DVDs is not an option for streaming video; therefore, if you choose to watch a movie on Netflix, instead of the watching it on TV, you have to watch it unfiltered, as Hollywood intented. You only controll whether to watch it, or not.
If you choose this option, how can you make more informed entertainment choices?
Many websites offer movie reviews for families and special recommendations for programs the whole family can enjoy together. These resources can be very helpful for selecting appropriate content: A Free Guide of 300 Family Friendly Films and Reviews from Phil Boatwright, The Movie Reporter. You can check out a free service of The Movie Reporter at TVG Daily. There you will find a listing of “movies playing on TV today,” posted each day of the week, with Phil’s review from a Christian perspective. Another recommend resource is Movieguide. Doing a little reseach a head of time can save you a lot of frustration during TV time.
Option 3 – Use Technology to Take Back Control of Your TV:
The V-Chip. The V-chip is the government’s required parental control for TVs – it’s free and it can be useful. Cable and satellite providers are required to have a V-chip type parental controll feature, too. What is it? You may have seen the TV promotions advertising thetvboss.org. In a nutshell, it’s basically little more than a glorified “Off” switch that’s tied to the TV show’s content rating. If you don’t want TV-M (Mature Audience Only) rated shows watched in your home, the V-chip can block the entire show for you… it prevents you from watching, unless you enter a passcode. There are three problems that keep most people from regularly using the V-chip: 1) it does what we can do manually; turn the channel, 2) the TV industry self regulates the TV ratings with no standards defined. In other words, ABC, NBC, FOX, CBS and cable networks decide independently how to rate their own shows. One might give a show with a certain type of content a TV-14 rating, and another network may give a similar type show a TV-PG rating. What’s more, if an otherwise good program happens to have only one single instance of foul language, the entire program would be blocked if you set the V-chip to block shows with language. The “L” in the TV rating tells us it has foul language, but the viewer has no way of knowing if the foul language is one use of hell, or if it has some of the worst language you’ll ever want to hear. In our opinion, the V-chip is Hollywood’s way of checking parental controls off the list. In other words, it keeps them from having to provide more useful and substative parental controls, like the ones that follow in this discussion.
TVGuardian—the AFA Recommended Technology. TVGuardian is a tiny box you connect to your TV that automatically filters out foul language. It let’s you decide what types of words to allow, or not. It even has a filter option to mute profane references to the Deity. The AFA recommends using the TVGuardian Foul Language Filter in combination with the free V-chip. Set your cable, satellite or TV V-chip to block movies and TV shows that are rated beyond your preference…then let TVGuardian filter out the profanity from the shows you allow in your home. There are many TV shows and movies that are perfectly acceptable—and even inspirational!—when watched with TVGuardian. The recent movie “We Bought a Zoo” is just one such example. TVGuardian works with TV shows, movies, DVDs, video-on-demand, pay-per-view, and premium movie channels, and it does not require a monthly subscription. It’s always on guard keeping profanity from infiltrating your home, according to the filter preferences set for your family. Of course, we still recommend using your better judgment by using the research resources listed above when selecting programs to watch. For more on the TVGuardian TV profanity filter, go to: www.TVGuardian.com
By properly using technology, families can turn TV from something that needs to be avoided…into something that can educate and inform and even bless. The key is, families should be the ones in control, and not Hollywood.
In the end, TV is a double-edged sword, with content that can be a curse or a blessing. We hope these tips help you turn it into a blessing!