Friday, January 05, 2007

Remotely Controlled

I received an email yesterday telling me about a new book that has been published entitled "Remotely Controlled - How television is damaging our lives and what we can do about it". The blurb advertising the book makes for sobering reading and it set me off thinking about the whole issue of television and the Christian woman.

Before I go on, I should say that we do have a TV and we do watch it, but over the past year, I have been watching it less and less and I can honestly say I don't miss it!

It struck me that in the different seasons of life we are all at risk of frittering away our time watching TV. As a student, it is all too easy to spend our free time getting to know the latest soap characters rather than our course subjects. As a working woman, who hasn't flopped down in front of the TV in the evening and spent several hours viewing to "unwind"? If we are full-time at home, daytime television can easily distract us from the mounting household chores, and if we have children we can employ the TV for a spot of child care. In later years, the television may be a source of company or comfort if we are less able to get out than we used to be.

The issue of children and television watching is one that has been the subject of quite a bit of research. I did a PubMed search (searching the medical literature) and there are a number of studies linking the amount of television watched and childhood obesity. A study published last year in the journal Pediatrics showed that:
Time spent viewing television both with and without parents and siblings present was strongly negatively related to time spent interacting with parents or siblings. Television viewing was associated with decreased homework time and decreased time in creative play.
Also, several studies looked at the impact of having a TV in children's bedrooms. A German research group found an association in some children between an impairment in expressive language and having a television in their bedroom. Furthermore, parents tend to under-estimate the amount of TV their children are watching if they have a television in their bedroom.

My database searching also had implications for all of us ladies, whether or not we have children. A paper in the Journal of the American Medical Association showed that sedentary pastimes, and especially TV watching, increased the risk of obesity and Type 2 Diabetes in the women studied.

So it's pretty clear that for adults and children alike, there are health implications to watching too much TV. However, the effects on our spiritual health are even more profound.

The television usually offers a worldview which is at odds with the one we embrace as Christians and yet often, we switch on our sets and switch off our brains, subconsciously absorbing whatever philosophies are on offer. Also, watching television is a tremendous thief of time. Can we honestly say that the programmes we watch glorify God and make us more Christ-like? As John Piper says in his excellent devotional book Taste and See,
Time is precious. We are fragile. Life is short. Eternity is long. Shall we not then enter on every venture with a vigilance like that of the young Jonathan Edwards when he wrote his fifth resolution: "Resolved, Never to lose one moment of time, but to improve it in the most profitable way I possibly can".
As I finish, let me just say that I do think this is a matter of conscience for the individual believer. I certainly don't want to make you feel bad for allowing your children (or yourself) to watch some TV. In fact, letting my oldest daughter watch "VeggieTales" is the only way I can spend time reading the Bible just now as my 5 month old keeps me up so late! That said, I have been challenged to re-evaluate my attitude towards television and maybe at the start of another year you would be willing to do the same.

1 comment:

Eva said...

I find that when my husband and I watch TV in the evenings after the kids go to bed, we don't talk very much. That's a problem, because after the kids go to bed is pretty much the only time we have for just the two of us, and at least twice a week we don't even have that. It's so easy for us to just kind of cohabitate instead of being together, ya know?

We decided to use our TV just for DVDs and videos from now on. Not that I think everyone needs to do this (so many people are really militant about this issue!) but because it's too easy for us to abuse it. It's another step in living each moment for God.