Unification News For March 1996


Television Viewing in the Home

by Frank Kaufmann-NYC

"Hey Frank," wrote a friend in the publishing business, "can you put together a couple of paragraphs, at the very most a page and a half, on how you deal with Television viewing in the home?" "Sure," I thought, "that's enough space for the topic. Next week, I'll write a page and a half on What is Reality."

Television viewing in the home, like absolutely everything else in the home is an area in which there can be strong differences. A husband and wife may differ in their assumptions and commitment to a "parental position" on the issue, and they may differ in their commitment, or capacity to carry out agreed upon TV viewing decisions. Parents and children will likely also have differing preferences and attitudes about the matter.

People might presume the title "television viewing in the home: refers to how parents oversee their children's television watching habits. The issue in fact if far broader. Important differences on the subject may also exist between husband and wife, not ONLY with regard to their respective views regarding the children's viewing habits, but very possibly with regard to each their own respective philosophies and/or viewing habits. Perhaps the wife sits around the house and watches TV all day. Perhaps the husband veges out at night and weekends. What percent of the readership of this newsletter read a book in the last month? Year? If it's a low percent, is television a part of the reason? Then how much is this a question about children's viewing habits?

OK, so television viewing may be a "problem" in dozens of ways in a family, and it may be a source of difference in all direction, not just between parents (who presumably know better), and children.

Supposing both parents agree that too much, or a certain kind of Television watching is no good for the kids, but only one of the parents strives in any way to create circumstances in which these agreed upon preferences are in fact brought to pass. Then the issue is far less about the kids, but about how the parents manage to live with such a situation. (The kids simply watch whatever they want except when one of the parents is around, thus compartmentalizing the experience and coming away with assumptions about parents, but few or none about the virtues or vices of TV.)

Supposing, on the other hand, unrestrained indulgence in TV watching, is not merely a matter of "inability " to do anything about it, but rather reflects actual philosophical differences. Say one parent, actually believes that TV basically can't do much harm, no matter how recklessly we imbibe. This form of difference is different in kind from the first example.

Next, what if the couple agree that certain things are not to be watched, but differ entirely as to what those things are. Say, one parent thinks Barney is good because he always has at least one black, one white, an oriental, and a Laplander on every show, and they all love each other, but thinks the Power Rangers are verboten because they punch people, and punching is bad. But the other parent thinks the Power Rangers are fine, because they try to "fight evil," but thinks Barney is a problem because he represents the roots of sentimental moral relativism. Again, we have an altogether different issue to resolve.

I'll raise one more issue, before I screech to a halt in order to accommodate this impossible article length. Are there readers who watch things they think their children should not? I would submit that under such circumstances, don't bother the kids. There is important work to do elsewhere.

OK. All questions no solutions? In a page and a half...yeah pretty much. I recommend that before one can address the extremely important issue of TV viewing, a more fundamental family issue must first be addressed. That is, how does one handle difference itself in the family; difference about anything, it doesn't have to be TV. A final example, meal time. Supposing one parent thinks it's fine for the children to yell and scream, throw food around, complain about what's served, and come and go at will during meal time. while the other parent believes meal time should be a time of education in manners, gratitude, social graces, conversation, and shared labor in preparation and clean up. Again, the penetrating issue arises; how does one handle difference? I believe the Principle and Father's teaching provide clear, complete, and very workable answers to this question.

If Bill invites me to write again, perhaps I can get around to discussing them.

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