In Singapore, television station made its debut in 1963. It was then under the purview of the Ministry of Culture. Over many years of transformation and liberation, the local television industry today is more diverse and complex. Info-Development Authority of Singapore (IDA) endorsed all the programmes. However, some of them have conflicting values because behind these programmes, television exists to entertain. People looking to television for diversion from the stresses of life, or answers to problems, or entertainment for their hearts, only find short-term relief. Christians need to come to the Lord as their help and source of comfort
A practical way to reduce television dependence is to re-arrange the living room. The television set could be put to one side, and the sofas moved to the side so as not to face the television set. This would help to break the habit of immediately switching on the television when relaxing on the sofa. Choose an alternative way for your relaxation when you are drained and tired. Watching television idly or in a tired state of mind is not beneficial.
Christians should exercise great self-restraint when it comes to watching television programmes, particularly those that will trigger sinful and evil thoughts. As much of the programmes are high on emotions, we need to keep tab on what triggers our emotions and feeling. Even if we exercise discretion and observe a discipline of selecting good and beneficial programmes, we need to be careful how our viewing might affect other believers. While our conscience may be clear, other believers may interpret our liberty as licence for themselves.
In the family, make television viewing a family time and evaluate television programmes together. Parents can conduct a meaningful discussion with their kids on certain programmes, either to illustrate certain points or to warn them against certain negative influence. For example many television shows glamorize material possessions, fame, worldly success and wrong ethics. As you watch, evaluate the content using the Philippians 4:8 principle – “Whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things”.
Television viewers can have an emotional rollercoaster experience in a short span of time. For example, in a typical news bulletin, viewers may see a catastrophe in Japan, a local press conference, a robbery or rape case, followed by an advertisement of a man relaxing and enjoying his meal at a seaside resort. Within a short span of five minutes, viewers can feel sober, relaxed, upset, excited and anxious.
Studies have concluded that heavy TV viewing by preschoolers decreases imaginative play and hinders vocabulary development. Students who watch lots of TV programmes don’t read as well as those with the same IQ who watch less. Children aged 6 through 10 benefit both from good books and good TV shows, though each medium calls for different kinds of thinking. In general, it is important to help children choose beneficial programs that reflect positive value and encourage learning, and to help children limit their TV viewing so growth can be balanced.
How much TV is too much for children? A good general guideline is: if TV viewing is crowding out growing-up experiences, such as reading and being read to, homework, chores, playing alone or with others and talking with the family, or getting a good night’s sleep, it’s too much. A good way to draw the line is to set a time limit: X number of half-hours per day. Then go through a TV guide with your children and help them select the shows they want to watch within the time allotment.
There’s one problem. When you begin to establish and maintain standards for your children, you really need to establish some of the same disciplines for yourself. Setting your own time limits, and selecting programs for something other than mere entertainment value, is something you may want to consider for your own benefit as well as for the children.
Christians cannot just depend on the television media to produce moralistic programmes or watching wholesome shows. Someone has pointed out that even a moral generation can still be lost. Mankind’s greatest need is not a moral teacher but a Saviour. The ultimate answer is still the Cross, and a life lived in the knowledge that God died for us that we might live for Him.
God desires that we who have the simple faith in Him does not mean that we should be simplistic. Christians should therefore not simply take things at face value. He has to be an informed and critical viewer; understands that information may be presented from a particular perspective and seeks out alternative news sources for comparison.
Be alert to how news is presented before drawing conclusion and making judgments of people and events. Consider both what has been presented and any raw data given to make your own assessments. News reports should be seen as a starting point, not the end point. Christians should speak up, and provide regular qualitative feedback. Christians should communicate regularly with commercial stations, producers, networks and advertisers to shape the cultural landscape of the society.
We should take on the pro-active roles of producing and distributing God-honouring, positive messages. The most effective way to transform the television business is to have talented people with integrity. Talented Christians should go into the industry to reverse the tide. It is an uphill task, but we must begin with a foothold.