This is a subject that is something that I personally believe is important. I am by no means a perfect parent or example for my son, but even in the life of my 17 year old son I've witnessed a huge shift amongst Christian parents and what sorts of shows are allowed for their children.
Recently a study was conducted by the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania to assess desensitization in parents’ repeated exposure to violence and sex in movies. (the same research team that found the amount of violence in PG-13 films had tripled in the most popular movies since 1985 — and that gun violence in PG-13 movies has exceeded that in R-rated movies). The study was recently released by the Pediatrics journal's online site on Daniel Romer, associate director of the Annenberg Public Policy Center, summarized the study's findings by saying simply, "We saw a really remarkable desensitization." In a separate interview, he added, "We were most surprised by how clear and dramatic the decline was to showing that kind of content to young people and the willingness to let their own children to see it."
Romer also noted that there seem to be increasing levels of violence in film these days, especially in PG-13 movies, and that there hasn't been much outcry or concern about it. "The rise of violence and gun violence in PG-13 movies means that lots of kids are able to go into movie theaters and see explicit violence. We wanted to find out why parents didn't show more concern. Why was this happening without pushback?" The answer, his team's research suggests, is that parents are desensitized to such content themselves.
In my own experience, it's a slippery slope once you compromise even once! It leads to new expectations of 'acceptable' by the child and often the parent feels stuck because once allowed, it feels hard to turn back. If we as parents are watching these shows all the time, how is that effecting our perspective on what we allow our children to watch?
So many children watch movies and tv shows that I would question watching myself. Even the commercials both scary and inappropriate get to be too much at times. It is hard for a young person with amped up hormones (or an adult for that matter) to maintain purity when bombarded with sexual images regularly. Similarly, hormones also effect moods, and have we stopped to wonder if the violence is effecting the way our children deal with anger? If you have a bad day then come home and burn off steam by killing 100 video game soldiers, aliens, or zombies....does that effect you? I think these are good things to consider.
Are we becoming desensitized? Studies say yes, but most of us don't need to read a report to come to this conclusion. You could not swear on regular tv when I was young, often shows that had bedroom scenes (most did not) were still fully clothed and eluded to a sexual act instead of explicitly showing every small detail. What would have been R rated is now PG-13 or less and what is now R or MA is often outright pornography.
So, what am I saying? As a parent, take a minute to evaluate what you and your children are watching. If you don't know...now is the time to find out, ask them, most will likely tell you. If you aren't familiar with it, you can either look it up online or just sit down and watch an episode with your child. You will likely notice if there are parts that make you or your child uncomfortable. Pray about it and ask for help in making these decisions for your family.
I still watch some shows online and I have Netflix (where I utilize parental controls) so that we can watch some shows without dealing with commercials. And what I allow now is obviously quite different than what I allowed when my son was 8 years old, but I do desire to teach him that we are called to guard our minds and our hearts...It is not just a child thing, but a human thing. I'm "allowed" to watch anything I want, but not everything is profitable for me. For example I get nightmares even as an adult, so I know it is best for me to avoid scary movies.
Are your children often scared or struggling with anxiety? Perhaps the things they are watching are scaring them? Remember that what is fine during the day is often scary at night. And the troublesome subject matter will vary widely depending on your child and the sensitivities of their heart and mind. For me, I can be bothered by a horror movie preview. And this time of year the tv is just overrun with them. What if you could ease their stress by trying to make sure they were having their minds fed with positive things? Remove the scary and stressful (or maybe slightly too mature) content from their viewing list. It's cheaper than a Doctor or Counselor and you may find that it causes your family to become more peaceful and even closer as you choose other activities to fill your time.
What do you do without tv? Play games, create art, find hobbies, listen/play music, or get active outside! Think about it, talk about it as a family, see if there may be areas that a new standard of "acceptable" needs to be set.
I know I have been convicted of a couple of things just as I've been writing this post. Let's protect our families as much as possible from being desensitized to violence, sexual content, disrespect, and crudeness.
A question just came to mind: "If it's not something we would let our children do (within reason), then why are we letting them watch it?"
May God help us to keep our minds full of things pleasing to Him while we are yet living in a fallen world.
May God Bless you and your family!
* The following is a link to the Parental Desensitization Study