Reducing TV’s Bad Influences for Children

Does the TV industry have a code of ethics?

Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA)On October 7, 1968, the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) announced The Motion Picture Code and Rating Program, a detailed plan for the movie industry to regulate itself with a code of ethics. A few years later, on February 19, 1975, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) issued a Report on the Broadcast of Violent, Indecent and Obscene Material in which it recommended that the television networks adopt “a rating system similar to that used in the motion picture industry.”

At first, the Catholic bishops endorsed this plan, but in less than three years it withdrew its support because the Code portion of the program was rejected by the movie industry; all that remained of the original plan was the rating system.

Here is the rejected MPAA’s Standards for Production section:

(a) The basic dignity and value of human life shall be respected and upheld. Restraint shall be exercised in portraying the taking of life.

(b) Evil, sin, crime, and wrong-doing shall not be justified.

(c) Special restraint shall be exercised in portraying criminal or anti-social activities in which minors participate or are involved.

(d) Detailed and protracted acts of brutality, cruelty, physical violence, torture, and abuse shall not be presented.

(e) Indecent or undue exposure of the human body shall not be presented.

(f) Illicit sex relationships shall not be justified. Intimate sex scenes violating common standards of decency shall not be portrayed.

(g) Restraint and care shall be exercised in presentations dealing with sex aberrations.

(h) Obscene speech, gestures, or movements shall not be presented.

(i) Undue profanity shall not be permitted.

(j) Religions shall not be demeaned.

(k) Words or symbols contemptuous of racial, religious, or national groups shall not be used so as to incite bigotry or hatred.

(l) Exessive cruelty to animals shall not be portrayed and animals shall not be treated inhumanely.

Note how thoroughly the television networks did not adopt the code of ethics, and how far the motion picture industry has strayed. Note, too, that the only code still respected today is the one that deals with animals.


So, how can we cut TV’s harmful impact on our children?

Television and the child“Forming children’s viewing habits will sometimes mean simply turning off the television set,” said Pope John Paul II on May 15, 1994. “Parents who make regular, prolonged use of television as a kind of electronic baby sitter surrender their role as the primary educators of their children,” he said.

The pope added that parents should inform themselves about the content of programs in advance. They should also discuss the moral values presented on TV with their children.

And they should regulate the amount of time children spend in front of the set. While some television can be beneficial, it is often harmful, “by propagating degrading values and models of behavior, by broadcasting pornography and graphic depictions of brutal violence,” and by casting doubt on religious beliefs, he said.

Television is often “spreading distorted, manipulative accounts of news events and current issues…carrying exploitive advertising…glorifying false visions of life that obstruct the realization of mutual respect, of justice and of peace,” the pope said.


How can parents best deal with television?

Here are 11 tips:

  1. Be a critical thinker. Study programs to discern what’s an immoral influence, what’s objectionable, what’s displeasing to God.
  2. Don’t believe everything you read or hear that defends television. Consider what the other side is saying, and make your own judgment based on God’s way of looking at it.
  3. Decide how much violence, sex and other immorality is permissible for your children to watch, based on their maturity and how morally strong they are.
  4. Choose which shows will be watched, and put others off limits. Channel flipping could result in the children seeing something you regret.
  5. Watch TV with your children, or at least stay within ear-shot.
  6. Teach your children how to feel uncomfortable with anything that’s inappropriate. Help them grow in the ability to switch off bad shows on their own, but be ready to turn the TV off yourself.
  7. Talk back to the TV to set an example of how to scoff at what it promotes. Muse aloud about things you see that you don’t like.
  8. Don’t rely on the rating system for movies. Some PG movies should be PG -13; many G-rated movies portray wrong morals. Talk to friends who have seen the movies, or subscribe to movie reviews that rate films by morality as well as entertainment value.
  9. Ask your children to suggest alternative plots that would have made the show better.
  10. Set limits as to how much time is spent in front of the TV. Television dulls the imagination; encourage play and other forms of entertainment that uses imagination skills.
  11. Give the children opportunities to question or discuss what they saw. If they feel they can share with you what’s going on in their minds, they will develop their own ability to analyze television’s morality.

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© 1993 by Terry Modica
Good News Ministries

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