Saturday, November 7, 2009

Our Children Are Watching

Recently, the Parents Television Council has published a study entitled "Women in Peril." Basically, what they have found is that TV storylines depicting violence against women have increased 120% since 2004, while other violent crime on TV has increased by only 2%.

While the study found a significant increase in all forms of female victimization storylines, they found a 400% increase in the depiction of teen girls as victims; further, they found an 81% increase in incidences of intimate partner violence on television.

The PTC has made a video compilation from a variety of shows, both comic and dramatic, that depict some of this violence. WARNING: It is shocking and disturbing and, in some cases, revolting. If you are usually careful and selective with the types of media entertainment you allow yourself to watch, you likely have not seen anything like this in a long time, if ever. You might not wish to fill your mind with these sorts of images.

On the other hand, if you are a Christian adult, and especially a parent, who regularly watches television programming, perhaps seeing them all together like this will serve as a wake up call as to the seriousness of the issue at hand. These shows are not ones I've watched, but the titles are very familiar to me since they are the "popular" shows of our day... ones that many of my friends and acquaintances have indicated that they watch regularly: C.S.I.; Desperate Housewives; Grey's Anatomy; Criminal Minds; Family Guy; American Dad.

If you are a child (and especially if you are my child), do not watch this video compilation of these clips. It is perverse and ugly stuff.

I am cringing at the idea that many, many American children are regularly watching these kinds of violent depictions. My six-year old neighbor has cable television in her bedroom, and watches whatever she wants to at whatever hour of the day or night. I'm sure she's not alone, as statistics show that many children have televisions in their bedrooms. One study found that nearly 3 out of 4 black (70%) and Hispanic (74%) children between the ages of 2 and 13, and close to 1 in 4 white children (22%) of the same age, have free access to a television in their bedroom. Another found that 41% of five-year olds have their own private bedtime television in their room!

What are they watching?! What are we doing? This study only began to scratch the surface of the garbage we're putting out on the primetime airwaves of every major television network* in America. It did not analyze for depictions of graphic sexual content; it did not keep track of television incidences of profanity. or nudity. or risk behaviors. or self-mutilation. or alcohol abuse. or drug use. or suicide. It did not chronicle television incidences of deviant sexual behaviors like group intercourse, homosexuality, incest, multiple partners, and sexual behavior with near-strangers.

Check out the Family Guide to Prime Time Television, where you can look up any television show and see how it rates on an evaluation of its family-friendly nature with regards to sex, language, and violence. We owe it to ourselves and our children not to let ourselves be "lobsters in the pot of cold water" as the networks turn up the heat!

* Networks included in the study were ABC, CBS, Fox, and NBC. Every network but ABC demonstrated a significant increase in the number of storylines that included violence against women between 2004 and 2009. (CW and MyNetworkTV were not included in the study since they did not exist in 2004.)

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