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Television -
Too Much of a ‘Good’ Thing?

When it was first introduced as wholesome family entertainment, the television was not a must for every home. And like so many other products today, what started out as a luxury soon became a necessity.

There was a study done, several years ago, to determine the attention span of children in school. When the results were evaluated, their time of continuous concentration was found to be 12 minutes. It came as no surprise that this time frame coincided with the length of TV programming before the commercial break.

The television industry understood the hold they had over viewers, but instead of rising to the challenge of benefitting impressionable audiences, it acquiesced to the advertising agencies to the point where ratings became their god.

News anchors were hired on the basis of audience trust (gullibility). The old adage “if I read it in the paper, it must be true” was wrongly ceded to the men featured as national TV news analysts. Before long ‘sensationalism’ and ‘tell them what they want to hear’ became the competitive buzzwords as increased viewership became the top priority of network executives.

It didn’t take long for this mind-set to impose itself on virtually all TV programming to the point where good taste, community standards, moral decency – what was traditionally black and white – merged into grey areas and then faded into oblivion as censorship became the villain.

Even our children were not to be spared when it came to greed. Programs for young audiences became nothing more than half-hour advertisements. And the moms and dads never caught on.

Too many parents have conveniently opted for the TV as a substitute baby sitter. While impressionable young minds absorbed the “knowledge” gained from cartoons, working moms got caught up on household chores.

Without realizing what was transpiring, mom and dad gave up their parenting role to whatever TV family was winning the popularity contest. And if you bother to watch a family sit-com you’ll soon realize just how awful these role models are.

Who’s to Blame?

When wrestling changed from being a sport to “sports entertainment”, it was an admission of guilt. The matches were fixed beforehand, the role of the “champion” was determined by his appeal (profits from endorsements), good guys became villains, bad guys reversed their attitudes. Everyone had a trademark submission hold that decimated their opponents.

Whose fault was it that young viewers couldn’t separate the actors from the action? How were they to know the mayhem they witnessed was a clever sham? If it didn’t look good, it wouldn’t sell. And if their hero was unaffected by the vicious treatment he received in the ring, why would anyone else be seriously hurt if the same tactics were used by the mesmerized child?

And now children are being killed by young family members or friends – usually in anger – in imitation of their TV heroes, the wrestler. Not so! says the World Wrestling Federation. According to their statement, trying to place the blame on their programming is “a contrived hoax”. Where did the children learn the wrestling moves? Were they supposed to know what they were watching was just “entertainment”? Who is responsible for their misconceptions and the actions that resulted? Is anyone going to step forward and say: “I’m sorry! It was my fault.”?

Children need guidance, they need firm love, they need their real parents to supervise TV programming (for content and amount of viewing) and to spend quality time with them.

If you were to take the time to select a good Catholic book (see Our Lady’s Book Service catalogue) and either encourage them to read a story, or read one to them, you would be doing your family, and yourself, a great service.