In the book Strengthening Our Families published by the School of Family Life at BYU we read:
Not all leisure activities are equally valuable. Some leisure activities are rejuvenating and contribute to personal development, marital enrichment, and family unity; some seem to neither help or hurt; while other leisure activities are destructive, undermining personal and family joy.
"Aimless leisure is much different than wholesome recreation. While wholesome recreation strengthens marriages and families and is consistent with gospel-centered living, aimless leisure is the opposite" (Widmer et al. 190).
Most of us worry a lot about the quality and quantity of media our families consume. Unplugging can be hard. Finding balance is difficult. But it can be done.
"In many homes today, the television set assumes the central place in the home. It is the focal point of the living room or family room, and in many homes it has even invaded the kitchen and the bedrooms. What message does it send when the television set takes the place of honor in a room, with all the furniture arranged around it, directed toward it? It is almost as if it were the altar at which the family worships" (Clarke et al. 91).
We can't expect our children to be more disciplined than we are with media consumption. If we worship at the altar of TV or the Internet, it's likely our children will learn to do the same.
Television must be managed.
-Dr. Glenn I. Latham
"Although certain leisure activities have been repeatedly criticized by Church leaders, especially card-playing and gambling, we should not expect to find an official list of acceptable activities" (Widmer et al. 191).
We should exercise our judgment regarding the amount and the quality of the media we consume. Elder Ballard counseled, "we must be ever cautious about our choices of programs and the impact of media upon our lives" (10).
Dr. Glenn I. Latham urges us to manage television, and other media. One of the problems with media is that it is often "empty" time. We're not active, not relating to one another, not growing.
You have the power in your home to make conscious choices regarding the quantity and quality of media you will allow.
Helping Our Children Choose
Authors of Parenting with Love and Logic explain that ultimately we should aim to have our children make wise choices about media consumption, rather than simply limit the amount of time or energy spent on it.
We don't have to get rid of the TV altogether (although families who do this often say this is one of the best things they ever did), but we do need to help our children choose.
Foster and Cline suggest that "Harping on our kids constantly or imposing severe cuts in their viewing habits often leads to rebellion," but that we can influence our kids, "we must emphasize alternatives, playing up the good things about friends, family, hobbies, sports, and so on" (239).
What Are You Watching?
"Evaluate the media used in your home. Discuss what videos you own, TV shows you watch, video games you play, Internet sites you visit, etc. Are there aspects of the media you use that do not support a Christ-centered home? What messages do they promote? . . . Discuss how individuals and families can combat the negative images and messages found in the media. Set goals that will help you to work toward viewing or using only wholesome entertainment" (Gilpin, 386).
Dr. Glenn I. Latham gives this idea that worked in his own family, "Each Monday night, as a family, we would review the TV program for the following week to pick out which programs the family wanted to watch. The children took turns choosing" (301). You could set up beforehand a total amount of hours you want as your maximum. This eliminates much of the mindless TV watching we sometimes slip into.
TV For Toddlers?
With the advent of "The Baby Channel" and other educational videos for very young children, you might wonder if TV can actually be beneficial for them. However, researchers state, "Until more research is done about the effects of TV on very young children, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) does not recommend television for children age 2 or younger. For older children, the Academy recommends no more than 1 to 2 hours per day of educational, nonviolent programs" (Widmer et al. 197).
Many families have found that the best way to control media in their homes is simply not to have it available. One minister recalled a major turning point in his life. Once when he was a boy, settled on the couch and watching TV, his father--who'd been working on a home improvement project--very literally fell through the roof and part way into the room. The young boy was so engrossed in TV he didn't even notice his dad's predicament. After all was resolved, the father took the TV, unplugged it, put it in a closet, and never got it back out. Are there any types of media your family would be better off without?
Plan On It
"Plan your recreational activities, fun doesn't just happen" (Widmer et al. 199). We've all experienced it: we plunk ourselves down in front of the TV set and suddenly an hour or more has slipped away. Think of times your family is especially drawn to the TV and plan something fun in its place. For example, one mother noticed that right after school was when her kids did most of their TV watching, so had a recipe out for a fun treat to make together when they got home instead.
BYU researchers suggest this measure: "Hold a family media fast (no media for a day/week/month). See your family flourish" (Widmer et al. 199). Many families find that limits like these don't create a "famine" mentality where kids will try to "gorge" themselves when TV is allowed. Instead, they report that children learn to entertain themselves in other ways and become less enthralled with and dependent on TV.
For a week before a family home evening about media, have your family chart the media they consume. This can be a great jumping off place for a discussion about leisure time and using it wisely.
Examine your family traditions. Are any of them unnecessarily media centered? What about trying an outdoor family football game, instead of watching one, on Monday nights?
Elder David R. Stone spoke in general conference about the difficulty of creating Christ-centered homes. "One of the greatest challenges we will face is to be able to live in that world but somehow not be of that world. We have to create Zion in the midst of Babylon" (90).
He goes on to say, "We can limit how much of Babylon we allow into our homes by the media of communication.
We can live as a Zion people, if we wish to. Will it be hard? Of course it will, for the waves of Babylonian culture crash incessantly against our shores. Will it take courage? Of course it will" (93). Managing the media in your home is one of the best ways to do this!
Ballard, M. Russell. "Filling the World with Goodness and Truth," Ensign. Jul 1996, 10.
Cline, Foster and Jim Fay. Parenting with Love and Logic. USA: Pinion Press, 2006.
Gilpin, Laura E. "Additional Activities to Assist in the Application of Proclamation Principles." Strengthening Our Families: An In-depth Look at the Proclamation on the Family. Ed. David C. Dollahite. Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book, 2000. 382-390.
Hawkins, Alan J., Diane L. Spangler, Valerie Hudson, David C. Dollahite, Shirley R. Klein, Susan Sessions Rugh, Camille A. Fronk, Richard D. Draper, A. Don Sorenson, Lynn D. Wardle, and E. Jeffrey Hill. "Equal Partnership and the Sacred Responsibilities of Mothers and Fathers." Strengthening Our Families: An In-depth Look at the Proclamation on the Family. Ed. David C. Dollahite. Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book, 2000. 63-82.
Latham, Glenn I. The Power of Positive Parenting. Logan, UT: P&T Ink, 2006.
Stone, David R. "Zion in the Midst of Babylon," Ensign. May 2006, 90-93.
Widmer, Mark A., David J. Cherrington, E. Jeffrey Hill, and Brian J. Hill. "Wholesome Family Recreation." Strengthening Our Families: An In-depth Look at the Proclamation on the Family. Ed. David C. Dollahite. Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book, 2000. 190-205.