The choice is ultimately ours. But before deciding, think on how much what we take in, affects our relationships and peace of mind.
By Lorelei Nettles
Have you ever finished watching a television program and continued to have strong feelings about it afterward? Those feelings can be wonderful, terrifying or horrendous. They do affect us and often those around us as well. We often project our emotions unintentionally on others, and that can disrupt all our relationships.
When I was young, I enjoyed watching television. There were few channels, and at night the stations actually shut down. Watching television was often a family event, with all of us gathering to enjoy the news, a variety show, sitcom or movie. Technology today is very different. It is a 24/7 world. Most households own multiple televisions, so families are separated. A plethora of programs are available, but what qualifies as “good”? There has been many a debate over that very question, but it seems shock and awe are what producers and newscasters lean towards. Often what does display Christian or family values is abandoned by programmers who don’t think it’s edgy enough. This leaves the average family with fewer choices. Unfortunately, it also means people just start accepting what is offered, but at what cost?
Why is what we watch so important?
When I was a teenager, I remember not being able to look out a window at night for fear of being grabbed or killed. Small sounds or shadows terrified me. Once while a friend was over, we noticed what we thought was someone standing outside the window. We worked ourselves into such a frenzy that we could not even go to bed. It turned out to be a bush.
According to the Kids Health website, “Kids who view violent acts on TV are more likely to show aggressive behavior, and to fear that the world is scary and that something bad will happen to them” (“TV Affects Children”). I certainly found this to be factual. I did not understand why I was always so afraid until I quit watching scary and overly violent programs. Soon, I found I was not reacting in the same ways. I remained safe about my surroundings, but not panicked and overly stressed.
“We’ve known for a very long time that the emotional content of films and television programs can affect your psychological health. It can do this by directly affecting your mood, and your mood can then affect many aspects of your thinking and behaviour. If the TV program generates negative mood experiences (e.g. anxiety, sadness, anger, disgust), then these experiences will affect how you interpret events in your own life, what types of memories you recall, and how much you will worry about events in your own life.” (Graham C.L. Davey, “The Why We Worry: Psychological Effects of TV News,” Psychology Today, June 19, 2012).
Another article stated that research from the September 11, 2001, attacks and the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing “showed that the more news people both young and old watched, the more stressed they became. In the same national survey, parents reported that their children watched an average of three hours of television related to the bombing, with older adolescents watching more than younger children. Children who watched the most coverage were reported to have more stress symptoms than those who watched less coverage” (Jessica Hamblen, “U.S. Dept. of Veteran’s Affairs Media Coverage of Traumatic Events: Research on Effects,” Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma).
As an adult, I have become more aware of my reactions and those of my family and friends after watching certain programming. Children especially react poorly to stressful programs. They may cry, worry, tantrum or lash out. This can happen to adults as well. Next time you watch a high-speed chase, take note of yourself. You will probably realize how tight your body is. How many times have you been emotionally stirred by a film? Is it for positive or negative? Philippians 4:8 tells us we are to think on what is praiseworthy, lovely and admirable. If we pay attention, we can physically and mentally feel the difference when watching something worthwhile.
Our viewing time should be building up family and relationships, not tearing them down. Many of us have Netflix, Hulu, satellite or cable in our homes. We can limit our choices by filtering the ratings and content of programs. Or we can view specialty sites that sort them for us, like Pureflix, FishFlix or the Hallmark channel. If we really look at the world around us we can see how much lifestyles and ways of thinking have changed. Swearing, anger, and hate are prevalent in society today. Disrespect of parents, leaders and even God are the norm. What we put in our minds matters. If we are to walk away from evil’s path. (Proverbs 4:14-15), should we not allow our minds there either?
We can choose to take in what is filthy, angry, intense and crude. Or we can take in what is pure, lovely, fun and moral. The choice is ultimately ours. But before deciding, think on how much what we take in, affects our relationships and peace of mind. Proverbs continues to tell us to ponder our path and remove our foot from evil (Proverbs 4:26-27).
Original posting at: https://www.ucg.org/beyond-today/blogs/christian-entertainment-and-its-impact-on-the-family