"Except for school and family, no situation plays a bigger role in shaping the American child than TV," says Richard Zoglin. The average home today has the TV on six hours and 17 minutes a day. The average American child will watch 5,000 hours of TV before first grade.

The negative effects of TV watching:

* It demands your time. It is addictive as it draws the viewer in.

* It determines behavior. Overwhelming evidence shows more than a "casual link" between children's watching TV violence and the performance of violent acts.

* It distorts the perception of reality. Children confuse real life with TV life and values. One study discovered 90 percent of boys surveyed would rather watch their favorite TV program than spend time with their fathers.

* It dulls moral sensitivity. A steady diet of soap operas, sitcoms, or movies desensitizes - enabling acceptance of what earlier would have been rejected (for example: adultery, premarital sex, murder, violent rage).

* It destroys meaningful family life. Time in front of the TV diminishes time for games, reading, music, conversation, and can be lethal to cultivating creativity.

What the Bible says about TV is seen in these principles:

* The principle of stewardship of time. Time is like any other commodity. This includes the time spent in front of the TV (Eph. 5:15-16).

* The principle of control. Self-control is a fruit of the Spirit. There is no greater test of this virtue than personal discipline in TV viewing (1 Cor. 6:12; Gal. 5:23).

* The principle of moral purity. You must choose whatever is true, ...honorable, ...right, ...pure, ...lovely, ...of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, let your mind dwell on these things. These virtues form the grid for making wise viewing choices.

* The principle of edification. You have great freedom in Christ - but with it comes immense responsibility. A regular diet of poor TV may actually tear down your faith (1 Cor. 10:23).

* The principle of God's glory. All that you do is for God's glory. Is watching TV glorifying Him? (1 Cor. 10:31).

What you can do:

* Make choices. Participate actively in entertainment choices. Ask yourself, How is this affecting me? Passivity is unacceptable.

* Be selective. The TV or VCR are not the only choices. Consider visiting an art museum, a concert, or historical location. Consider family reading times or playing board games together. Enjoy the silence.

* Read program descriptions. Watch TV with your children and discuss the content, themes, and worldview presented in the program. Don't be hesitant to turn off the TV midshow if it becomes inappropriate for children - or yourself.

* Periodically log how much you and your family are viewing. Consider limiting the number of shows your child may watch each week.

* Do not stare passively at commercials. Talk about current events, or discuss the product or persuasive content of the advertisement with one another.

James P. Eckman is president and professor in Theology, Ethics, and History at Grace University, Omaha, Neb. An ordained minister, he hosts a weekly radio program, Issues in Perspective, and lectures on postmodern era implications for the Christian community.
From Christian Ethics in a Postmodern World by James P. Eckman. Copyright (c) 1999 by Evangelical Training Association, Wheaton, Ill. 1-800-369-8291. Used by permission.