Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Media Overload

Moving on in our look at Dr. Richard Swenson's book, The Overload Syndrome, today we are going to look at one of the most pervasive, yet probably also one of the most controllable, factors in the overloaded life - Media Overload.

I don't even need to spend much time discussing where all this overload comes from - the television which dominates many hours of the day and evening, movies which constantly push the envelope and target ever younger children with their agendas, music - much of which carries highly objectionable messages which hide behind catchy tunes, and computer usage and the Internet (which I'm giving bloggers and homeschoolers a free pass on - NOT!).

What's the big deal, you might say. Let me tell you.

  1. Media has re-set the moral acceptability threshold - We've been enjoying old re-runs of "I Love Lucy" lately. Remember how married tv couples would sleep in separate beds? How you couldn't even say the word "pregnant?" I'm not advocating that, but do you remember what it feels like to watch a movie or tv show with your children and not cringe and hope that they didn't catch that off-color joke or curse word? It's becoming a rare event. Movies that are rated PG-13 very often have completely inappropriate material for 13 year olds. The f-word may be used up to 3 times, drug use is acceptable, violence (without bloodshed) is fine. Think how far down the road we have gone in the last twenty years. Now extrapolate that out for another 20 years. Scary, huh?
  2. Media has re-sent the shock threshold - Remember how when Jaws came out in 1975 that people were sick and had to get up and leave the theater? Now they show more gruesome things every day on television and it doesn't even phase us. Many news outlets have an "if it bleeds, it leads" philosophy. As we become numb to each new level of horror, the media has to keep ramping it up in order to get our attention.
  3. Media re-sets the boredom threshold - I can attest to this! My children were recently grounded from electronics for two days (two whole days!!!!) and you would have thought there was nothing else to do in the world. Remember when we were kids and we could entertain ourselves for hours? Our kids are losing the ability to entertain themselves and use their imaginations.
  4. Media presents a more negative view of the world - Bad news is big news. We hear about every missing child, making it seem as if the world is a much more dangerous place. Yet statistics show that kidnapping rates have not changed - it's just that we are more aware of them now. And fictional tv? They present us with about 350 characters a night - seven of whom will be killed on screen. According to media critic Michael Medved, if this murder rate reflected reality, "in just 50 days everyone in the United States would have been murdered."
So we all know that the problem is there. The real question is how do we reduce the amount of media that floods into our souls, our homes and our families?

  1. Guard against media being your barrier to loneliness - Visit someone who would appreciate the contact (shut-in's, hospital patients, a friend who's been down). Get on the phone and make a call. Write someone a letter. Invite someone over for coffee. Don't turn to the tv to keep you company.
  2. Allow boredom to nourish the imagination - Over the summer we had our satellite tv disconnected for 2 months. No local channels - nothing. It was a great experience once we got over the initial withdrawal pains! My kids came up with tons of creative ways to fill their time. Here's a list we made up of things to do - click here.
  3. Create rather than consume - Go out and play a game rather than watching one on tv. Bake bread, sew, visit people, make your own music, learn something new. Live your life - don't live vicariously through watching people on tv.
  4. Establish limits - Set a weekly limit on screen time. Agree that nothing will be turned on before homework or schoolwork are done. Set limits on what you watch/listen to/visit on the web. Limit the channels you and your kids have access to - more is not necessarily better.
  5. Resist advertisements - They create a need where there wasn't one before. Trust me, millions of dollars are spent on each commercial to get you to believe that you NEED what they are selling. It's a lie.
  6. Zap the set - Be willing to turn off objectionable material. Change the channel, hit the mute button, turn it off. You control the tv, not the other way around.
  7. Go on a media fast - Turn off the tv for a week or two. Pray in the car instead of listening to the radio. Cancel the paper. Just tune out for a week or two - it can be very restorative.
  8. Be aware - Don't hide your head in the sand. You need to know what's going on so you can deal with it with your children. It's better they get your opinion on something than their friend's opinion. When my daughter asked me why we don't listen to groups like Green Day, I spent time looking up their lyrics and showed her some of the ones that were inappropriate. She instantly understood and has never asked about our music choices again. But if I hadn't been willing to discuss it with her, she'd still be wanting to rebel.
  9. Hate evil - For some reason, we always find evil more interesting. This isn't how things should be, but it's how they are. Learn to hate evil, pray, ask for wisdom.
  10. Substitute soothing music - Playing soothing music, if you really need background noise, can be a soothing substitute for the tv or other musical choices. Classical may sound strange to your family's ears at first, but over time they may come to appreciate it.
  11. Use a movie viewer guide - This way you know what you are getting before you go see a movie. One that I use and recommend is www.KidsInMind.com. It will give you a detailed description of any violent, sexual or language issues. Another good choice is www.pluggedinonline.com, from Focus on the Family. They give a broader picture of the movie - spiritual overtones, underlying messages, etc.
  12. Watch videos - Use videos instead of broadcast and/or cable tv. Now, we don't ever go to Blockbuster. I don't have a problem with them, but we get any movies we rent from the public library. Yes, we don't get the latest releases, but we get years worth of quality movies for FREE.
  13. Encourage reading - Read the book BEFORE seeing the movie. Have a set time or evening when the family reads together as opposed to watching tv. You might even want to consider paying for reading - maybe a nickel a page or so.
  14. Include only the best - Look, we can't totally eliminate media from our lives. But we can seek out the best and try to eliminate the worst. Often our busyness overwhelms us and we, in exhaustion, just turn to the easiest thing. Make a conscious decision to promote music and television which offers positive messages and values.

Pray about all of this and see what the Lord would convict you and your family about. Then work to make those changes.


ValleyGirl said...

This is a huge issue, I agree. It's sad how we feel shows that came out 10-15 years ago (or even before that) are boring because there's no 'action,' even though they were cutting edge when they first came out.

stacey said...

just having your boredom list alone as a resource is so great! i am a big copy cat and then add to person! why create when you can copy what works!

keep the good words coming!

Help meet said...

I found your blog through, Making Home.

This is a great topic! I haven't had a chance to read through the whole thing yet, but I am very thankful that we only get three channels here (on a good day!) One of those channels is Public Broadcasting, so there are NO commercials.

It's definitely a relevant issue, thanks for bringing it up!

Rachelle G. said...

I'm with you. I've found that even making small changes can make a big difference. My kids have learned to love the sound of "silence" in our household when we all enjoy a relaxing evening cuddled up on the couch reading our books. Great post!

~Java Mama~ said...

What a great post! I realized a few weeks ago that we were way overloaded and made the decision to cut the tv off for the entire week leaving 3 hours on Friday and Saturday for my children. I can not tell you the sweet blessings I am seeing in my children and myself. They are becoming creative!! with their time and their resources. What is funny is that sometimes they forget about the 3 hours on Friday!


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