A Worn-Out Welcome by Barbara Curtis
Ever had a guest you wish you hadn't invited? Maybe you were looking forward to a little fun and found a lot of wasted time instead.
If so, maybe you'll tune right in to this picture of an ungracious guest. He plants himself squarely in the room. An attention grabber, he must be easily seen and heard by all who enter.
But a little attention never seems to be enough; it seems like he is always demanding more. He monopolizes every conversation. His friends find it difficult, if not impossible to get a word in edgewise.
His voice is too loud, his manners pathetic. He swears and takes God's name in vain. He has little respect for family ties, pokes fun at things that matter deeply, tells off-color jokes you wish your children hadn't heard. And yet, he's one of the most popular guests in town - despite his bad manners invited back again and again. His calendar is full -- throughout the day, in the evening, on weekends, in rain or shine, in sickness or in health.
'And he doesn't discriminate. You'll find him in the homes of the poorest as well as the richest, the happy and the miserable, among all ages, races, and colors. Maybe you've spent some time with this ill-mannered guest yourself. Maybe sometimes you wish you hadn't. Somehow the time you spend together seems to mix up your priorities. You find words coming out of your mouth that weren't there before. You find yourself being sarcastic or mean to others in your family. You find yourself distracted by thoughts when you've set a higher standard for your future.
So why do you keep turning on the tube? Good question, considering that in the United States children watch an average of 21 to 27 hours of television per week. An even better question considering what they're watching.
The American Psychological Association was concerned enough about television's effect on society to form a task force to study and report on their findings. Their conclusion? The average child watching two to four hours of television a day will have witnessed at least 8,000 murders and 100,000 other acts of violence before graduating from elementary school.
What are the effects of watching all this violence? Is it harmless, as some people say? If it's harmful, how can harmfulness be measured? Many studies have been done, on adults and children, to discover the effects of viewing violence. Here is one example: 100 preschool children participated by watching 20 to 30 minutes-of television three times a week for four weeks. Half the children watched cartoons that had a lot of violence in them; half watched shows with no violence.
Only four to six hours of viewing spread out over a month. And yet at the end of the month the researchers found a clear difference between the two groups of children. Those who watched the violent cartoons were more likely to hurt others, argue, and disobey than those who watched non-violent programs. This study was conducted at Pennsylvania State University, and it is typical of studies done throughout the country.
The scientific evidence is conclusive: television violence makes viewers more prone to aggressive behavior in real life.
So, you may be thinking, I stay away from the violent shows. Well, what about sex, what about crude jokes, what about sarcasm and meanness and put downs of others? If viewing violence leads to violence, then surely sitcoms driven by low standards drag down our own. While some may dispute the influence of television on our daily lives, advertisers don't. They're so convinced of the power of television to mold our thoughts and behavior that they spend billions each year on commercials.
Along these lines, were you aware that movies are filled with subtle and not-so-subtle ads? That familiar candy bar on the table was no coincidence. Hershey's or Nestle's paid to have it there. If the hero picks it up, they paid big bucks. If he actually takes a bite, they paid mega bucks. Advertisers know those dollars are well spent. If the star of the show does it, chances are we will do it too.
And so, for someone who watches a lot of television, there is a question, "How much of who you are is who you really are - the person God meant you to be? And how much is who you've become because of what you've been watching?" For anyone who's not sure of the answer
to that question, T.V. has become more than just an annoyance, it's a menace. He's like a friend who's worn out his welcome. Even if he doesn't spill his drink or drop crumbs, he's still a guest who leaves a mess behind.
About the author: Barbara Curtis is the mother of twelve children ages 34, 28, 20, 18, 17, 15, 13, 11, 10, 8, 7 and 3 including four with Down syndrome— three adopted and the grandmother of eight.
She is the author of: Lord, Please Meet Me In the Laundry Room: Heavenly Help for Earthly Moms, to be published early 2004;
Small Beginnings: First Steps to Prepare Your Toddler For Lifelong Learning, 1997;
Ready Set Read! A Start-to-Finish Reading Program Any Parent Can Use, 1998; and over 600+ articles in over 50 magazines and newspapers
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