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TV Tips for Parents: Interaction, Not Isolation

We’ve heard about different studies for years, that too much TV isn’t good for kids. Well, the latest study from New Zealand adds a new wrinkle: some disturbing correlations between excessive TV viewing and antisocial behavior in young people.

The researchers tracked a group of kids between the ages of 5 and 15, then followed up with them when they were 26. The abstract from the study is available online (check this commentary on BreakPoint.org for the link).

That abstract summarizes the findings this way: “Young adults who had spent more time watching television during childhood and adolescence were significantly more likely to have a criminal conviction, a diagnosis of antisocial personality disorder, and more aggressive personality traits compared with those who viewed less television.”

The website PsychCentral adds, “Other studies have suggested a link between television viewing and antisocial behavior, though few have been of this longitudinal nature. This is the first study that has asked about TV viewing throughout the whole childhood period, and has looked at a range of antisocial outcomes in adulthood.”

Now it’s important to remember that this study only shows a correlation, as such studies usually do. It doesn’t prove that TV viewing is a direct cause of antisocial behavior. Still, it serves as a good reminder for all of us concerned about the spiritual health of the younger generation.

Our kids are surrounded by a popular culture that is constantly fighting for their time and attention. Most of the creators of that culture couldn’t care less about our children’s moral and spiritual development. Those creators want ratings and dollars, and they’ll use whatever shock tactics they have to use to get them. A lot of their programming is a spiritual vacuum at best, and spiritually damaging at worst.

Remember how Hollywood has always rushed to defend itself after a mass shooting, whenever someone has suggested that excessively violent movies might have played a part? That alone suggests where the industry’s priorities lie.

And many of the creative minds who do care about social causes tend to be even worse. Much of what’s now considered “educational” programming solicits kids to get involved in causes that are politically correct and morally bankrupt — causes like the right to “safe sex” at younger and younger ages, and same-sex marriage.

I’m not advocating for completely cutting kids off from the culture around them. One danger of that course of action is that you’ll create curiosity that your kids might rush to gratify the minute your back is turned. It’s a common reaction to “forbidden fruit.”

Also, your kids could end up unable to relate to the society around them — and unable to reach out to people who believe differently from them.

But it is possible to raise wise and mature kids without putting them in a plastic bubble. Here’s one thing you can do: You can limit TV time. Be aware of what your kids are watching. Discuss their favorite shows with them, and explain to them how shows use imagery and emotion to try to influence their thinking. You can encourage them to read as many good books as possible (check out the Youth Reads page at BreakPoint.org for some recommendations).

And most of all, spend time with your kids. Show them what it means to live as a follower of Christ, through your words and your example. Raising kids who know what they believe, and why they believe it, is the surest way to make sure the culture can’t remake them in its own warped image.

Eric Metaxas is a co-host of BreakPoint Radio and a best-selling author whose biographies, children's books, and popular apologetics have been translated into more than a dozen languages.

BreakPoint commentary airs each weekday on more than one thousand outlets with an estimated listening audience of one million people. BreakPoint provides a Christian perspective on today's news and trends via radio, interactive media, and print.

Publication date: March 19, 2013

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