Question: What is the effect of current television programs on my kids’ relationship with God?
Answer: What we feed our children’s bodies builds them with solid nutrition for the long haul, or not. It works the same with what we feed, or allow to be fed to, our children’s souls. (It works the same with adults.) Consumption of food (or media/technology) creates a desire which grows an appetite for a particular “meal.” These either increase our children’s desire and appetite for relationship with their Heavenly Father and heavenly realities, or decrease them.
Unfortunately, the days of wholesome television programming, and a hefty fine for unsavory language in movies, have passed.
As wonderful as it would seem to return to those days because society’s values were better, in general, than they are now, they weren’t all Kingdom-centered.
No matter what era of television programming is being watched (one option is to watch older series of television programming such as Mr. Rodger’s Neighborhood for younger children, and the majority of The Andy Griffith Show and Leave it to Beaver shows for older children and families), an important consideration is:
What length of time are they watching?
Pediatric doctor Barton D. Schmitt, MD, advises limiting television watching (including video games) to two hours a day or less. Click here to read those excellent guiding principles.
There are days, for instance, when someone in the family doesn’t feel well, and television watching spikes. Also, if you need a break because of the 24/7 job parenting is, click here to read more about acknowledging your need to care for yourself and “feed” them well while navigating these waters.
Children are open and absorbent; the younger they are, the more open and absorbent. In addition to the content of the television programs, or entertainment from any source (phone Apps, YouTube, movies, video games, every media form), the frequency and intensity that flows from the words and sounds on the programming affect your child.
By the sound of His voice and the directed intent of His focused planning, our Heavenly Father created the world. He created us in His image, and we create, be that intentionally or not.
Sound contained in the content, and the duration, of the programming are vibrating your child at the molecular level. Your child’s biology reverberates to the frequency released in the songs, words and sound in the programming.
Joanna* had carefully chosen a non-violent, non-witchcraft video game for her son. He enjoyed playing it, and the action involved seemed a better choice than passive television viewing. Yet, every time he ended a section, or Joanna told him to get off, his agitation and irritation level was higher than when he started, and it was reducing the quality of their family interactions. Joanna and her husband banned video games for a time to sort the matter. One element that came to light was the nature of the video game played to the child’s (human’s!) desire to complete a goal. When he “failed” the level, he was compelled to keep playing until he “beat” the level. Human nature. The young boy was in a lose-lose situation, and his biology showed it by increased blood pressure and flushed cheeks. The time limit Joanna set for the video game did not allow him to “beat the level,” and once he beat a level, he didn’t want to turn off the game as the dopamine levels were flowing, and his biology was reverberating to the sound of the video game and to the euphoria of winning—even though it was a video game that was non-offensive to God.
The solution was found in the brakes applied by the parents—grounding from video games. When the boy realized: 1. he had to apply self-control to finish a level and turn the game off, and that 2. his mom Joanna was sympathetic to the frustration he felt when it took longer than his allotted time limit to “beat a level,” 3. they came to a solution. The time-out from the video game allowed the family to dissect the negative, and implement a solution based on trust. Over a decade later, Joanna cites that process as the time in which her son learned to apply self-limits still in evidence today.
Foundation of Life Laid in Childhood
Programs both engage and lull the senses. Without parental oversight and engagement, children will watch (or play) longer than is healthy, and they will lose that time of creativity, play, exploration, discovery, learning, connectivity and growth that would naturally occur in earlier historical times before the advent of media technology.
This not only affects their relationship with our Heavenly Father now, but as the foundation of life is laid in the childhood years (if you or your children know you have deficits there, there’s hope as it’s redeemable!), it will affect them later as illustrated by the law of inertia which states “an object at rest stays at rest, or an object in motion stays in motion unless acted on by unbalanced force.” They’ll stay in the patterns they developed in childhood (including tween and teen years).
Our objective in their childhood years is to keep the ball rolling—our children—in motion with their Heavenly Father. It takes our intentional direction of television, and media oversight, as part of the plan to achieve that goal.
What types of programming are they watching?
The eyes are such an important gateway—inward to our hearts and outward to the created world.
What goes in through the eyes (and ears) goes to our souls, then to our hearts, and either builds or dirties them.
King David’s House
King David addressed the relationship between our Heavenly Father and the eyes in this way, “I will be careful to lead a blameless life—when will you come to me? I will walk in my house with a blameless heart. I will set before my eyes no vile thing,” Psalm 101:2-3.
David was expecting the Lord to visit him at his house. This is no isolated event for David alone, the Lord dwells among His people, including your home and family. In anticipation of the Lord’s presence, David prepared himself by being intentional about what he looked at—before the days of sex, drugs, violence bombarding us from almost every angle as well as silly and unproductive programming on media/technology.
Parents are Gatekeepers
Solomon relays this instruction that he’d received from his father David. “Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life,” Proverbs 4:23.
Parents are gatekeepers of their children’s hearts and gates for many years. What is seen by the eyes and heard by the ears goes into the heart (the intersection of our spirits and souls).
Jesus said, it’s what comes out of the heart, through the mouth, that defiles our own souls and others, Matthew 15:10-20.
What is in others’ hearts (writers, producers, businesses, etc.) is coming out through the “mouth” of media/technology and either building up your child’s heart (some of which intentionally draw them to the Father and some of which don’t) or dirtying it.
What goes into the soul affects desire—the wants and don’t wants!–even if the spirit has been nurtured. Also, what is set before the eye and ear gates which go into the soul and heart (the younger the child, the increased intensity) affects behavior. Children are created by our Heavenly Father to learn and grow with openness quickly. It’s one of the things He loves about them, and which Jesus complimented, Mark 10:15. They learn what they watch, and emulate the behavior they see and hear.
Our children’s lives are interconnected, as are ours. One aspect affects the whole. In other words, every item watched, eaten, heard, seen, learned, understood and digested impacts the whole spirit, soul and body. Each choice—to watch, to listen, to eat—will either build positively or negatively; the accumulation of those individual choices affect how our children view and relate to their Heavenly Father, themselves and others.
The good news is that it’s never too late to change choices! Each good choice moves your child closer to the abundant life with the good future that our Heavenly Father planned for him/her!
It is wisdom to provide intentional oversight to the: 1. content 2. sound and 3. length of media/technology for your child because it has the capacity to build their hearts, and thus their lives, closer to our Heavenly Father, or to set them into patterns that will be more difficult to break later.
My Prayer for You
Father, thank You for Your good plans for every parent, caregiver, and child. Please grant every parent and caregiver great grace to implement intentional choice and to impose limits for media and technology for their children, wisely and boldly, in the face of a culture that flows according to the law of sin and death. Father, grant these great expectation that their choices to be choosey and set limits is creating a space wherein You’ll be delighted to visit them, their homes, their children just as You did David. Father, lead, guide and direct them to media and technology that will build their children up in virtue and life, and draw their hearts to Yours, according to Your specific plans for their destinies. Restore and do much more in the mighty name of the Lord Jesus Christ, amen.
Email us your specific question about specialized concepts for nurturing the spirits of your children and assisting their growth so that they can go with God, and go for the gold in the race of their own life, and we’ll put yours in the queue.
by Crystal Wade, copyright 2019
*Names have been changed.