Taking Charge of the TV

With summer here and kids out of school, many Christians, and especially those who are parents, might be wondering: How do I take charge of the television?

The fact is, you and your children will inevitably adopt the morality of the programs, movies, books, magazines, music, Internet sites, and conversations you participate in. GIGO—garbage in, garbage out; godliness in, godliness out. The cognitive is basic to the behavioral—you become what you choose to feed your mind on.

Sow a thought, reap an action;
Sow an action, reap a habit.
Sow a habit, reap a character.
Sow a character, reap a destiny.

"Above all else, guard your heart [mind, inner being], for it is the wellspring of life" (Proverbs 4:23).

If someone wants to pollute water, he pollutes it at its source. If he wants to purify water, he purifies it at its source. Our thoughts are the source of our lives. All our lives flow from our mind, and through the choices we make every day we program our minds, either for godliness or ungodliness.

1. Keep track of how much time you spend watching. (It's much more than you think).

2. Decide in advance how much TV to watch per week. (e.g. No more than six hours, only two nights or weekends).

3. Use a schedule to choose programs for the week (perhaps at family time)— then stick to your choices.

4. Keep your television unplugged, store it in a closet, and/or put it in a remote part of the house (prevents mindless flip-on).

5. Periodically "fast" from television for a week or a month. Notice the "cold turkey" effects. (Avoids addiction, reminds you of all that can be done when TV off).

6. Choose programs that uplift rather than undermine biblical values.

7. Use the "off" switch freely. If it's wrong and you keep watching, you're saying "I approve." (Unless it doesn't present temptation and you're critically analyzing it).

8. Use the channel changer frequently. Even decent programs often have explicit commercial clips of the latest adultery-rape-murder-madstalker-child-kidnapper movies. (Put the channel changer in the hands of one of your kids, under your supervision—let him exercise his conviction).

9. Watch and discuss programs together as a family—to avoid passivity and develop active moral discernment through interaction. (Avoid the second TV set that splits the family and leaves children unsupervised).

If this scene or program we just saw was biblically off base or promoted ungodly values, talk about how and why. (Discuss commercials too—have fun debunking them).

If there's a program your child wants to watch and you think he shouldn't, consider watching it together one time and ask him to tell you whether or not he thinks Jesus wants him to watch it, and why. (Don't deprive him of moral-decision making—it needs to become his conviction, not just yours).

Use programs as a teaching opportunity. "That's disgusting, turn it off" doesn't explain why we should set our minds on godly input and avoid what is ungodly. Use reasoned conviction, not unexplained legalism. Children must dialogue to develop ownership of values. Otherwise, when Mom and Dad aren't there, they'll watch because they won't have the conviction or courage to say "No."

10. Don't allow young children to choose their own programs—that's the parent's responsibility. As they get older, they can choose, but parents should always have veto power. Use it with sensitivity, but use it.

11. Don't use television as a baby sitter. Provide healthy alternatives, such as reading, projects, play and interaction with parents, siblings, and friends.

12. Spend an hour reading Scripture, a Christian book or magazine, or doing a ministry for each hour you watch TV. (It's not enough to get rid of the bad—go out of your way to renew your mind by filling it with the good).

13. Consider dropping cable, Showtime, HBO, or any other service that you determine is importing ungodliness or temptation into your home. (Many people who are fatigued find themselves morally vulnerable to flipping on ungodly programs late at night. In the moment of strength make decisions that will prevent temptation in the moment of weakness—get rid of the source when you can).

14. If you find you can't control it—or you're tired of the battle—get rid of your television.

Photo by Glenn Carstens-Peters on Unsplash

Randy Alcorn (@randyalcorn) is the author of over sixty books and the founder and director of Eternal Perspective Ministries