You don’t need me to tell you that the temperatures are dropping and the sun setting earlier now that Daylight Savings time has kicked in. And, I’m sure you’ve figured out by now that with colder temps and darkness settling much earlier, our kids have less incentive to remain outdoors to play. Which, of course, means they’re now spending more time in the house.
Why, then, am I stating the obvious?
Because as we head into the winter, house-bound kids will spend more time watching television than engaging in outdoor activities. But the picture gets a bit more troubling for those households where parents permit a television in a young person’s bedroom. Earlier this year the New York Times ran an article entitled, A One-Eyed Invader in the Bedroom.” In it, they cited reports indicating that half of American kids have a bedroom TV. Half! One study placed the number closer to 62%. Another study found that one-in-five infants and toddlers under age two have a TV in their room. Is that necessarily a bad thing? Here are some of the trends noted by the New York Times for children with a television in their bedroom:
- A child’s viewing time rose from 21 hours/week to 30 hours/week with a bedside TV
- Increased waistlines and obesity, especially among boys
- Children scored “significantly lower on math, reading and language-arts tests.”
- Children ages 12-14 were twice as likely to start smoking if a TV was in their bedroom
- The bedside TV interferes with sleep, producing poor school performance and comprehension
Interestingly, the New York Times didn’t report what children will be exposed to in terms of sexual content on the tube. In August of 2008, Tim Winter, president of the Parents Television Council (PTC), released the findings of their Happily Never After study. The PTC monitored 207.5 hours of prime-time programming and found that TV characters are almost THREE TIMES more likely to-brace yourself-engage in sex with a minor, a corpse, a prostitute, an animal, or partner swapping than they are with a spouse.
You might want to read that again.
NBC was the worst offender where the ratio was 27 references to “kinky” sex to every 1 reference to sex within marriage. In an interview with the Miami Herald (8/6/08), Tim Winter said, “Everybody’s having sex on TV except married couples.” I’m sure you agree that kind of programming is alarming.
This begs the question: what are our children learning about God’s gift of sex from prime-time television? In short, the message is that sexual behavior is fine with anybody or anything, anywhere, and at anytime.
Is it any wonder, then, that a new three-year study just released in Pediatrics, the official journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, that those who watch “flirting, necking, discussion of sex and sex scenes” are about twice as likely to either become pregnant or contribute to a pregnancy? Their study included more than 2,000 youth ages 12-17 during 2001 to 2004.
What can a parent do?
In addition to expressing your concern about the sexualized content of prime-time programs to the networks, why not limit television viewing to a public place within the house-be that the den, bonus room, or family room. This is a great way to keep an eye on what’s being viewed in your home.
If you’d like some additional help making good TV and media choices, our PluggedInOnline.com is an invaluable resource. Our youth culture team provides helpful reviews and insight into popular television programming. I might also suggest the modest step of posting this verse from Psalm 101 on a 3×5 card on top of your TV: “I will set no worthless thing before my eyes.”
Interacting with our children about their viewing choices is as important as providing them with healthy meal choices. We’re careful about the fuel for their body, right? Isn’t it time we demonstrated the same care when it comes to the fuel for their soul?