National Catholic Register

Culture of Life

TV or No TV?

Family Matters

BY Tom and Caroline McDonald

November 20-December 3, 2011 Issue | Posted 11/14/11 at 6:12 PM

 

My husband and I are at an impasse about the TV set. I’m tired of the constant noise, and I don’t want our kids exposed to the garbage on it, but my husband watches it constantly and, in fact, wants to buy a bigger one! How can we resolve this? Should we keep it or throw it out?


It’s one thing if both of you are of one heart and one mind and agree to get rid of your television. We know some great Catholic families who have done just that, and we certainly respect their decision. But since it seems important to your husband, we think compromise is called for here. TV is the great-grandpa of the explosion of technology, and whether it’s a smartphone, iPad or the latest craze in social media, it has the potential for great good or serious sin. Yes, there is plenty of garbage out there, but, wow, there is some really great programming, too. How about that Catholicism series by Father Robert Barron (which the Register has highlighted in several articles)? The girls in our house love the cake shows. And we also all enjoy shows on the History Channel and EWTN (the Register’s parent company). What we have to do is be the masters of technology and not let it master us. Here are some rules of thumb that have helped the McDonald household keep our viewing habits in check. Maybe you and your husband can agree to use these guidelines:

First, the TV should not be on 24/7 as background. Unless you’ve decided to watch a particular show at a particular time, turn it off. Mindless channel surfing is good for no one. It should definitely not be on during meal times (unless it’s a planned family movie night) or during homework sessions. Take the time to learn how to use the parental controls to remove even the hint of temptation for teenagers. We think it’s a terrible idea to allow separate TVs in kids’ bedrooms because there is no way to monitor content. If you would like a separate TV for kid shows, try having one hooked up only to a DVD player, and make a rule that absolutely nothing can be played on it without your permission.

Consider adding a digital video recorder (DVR) to your cable package, which allows you to easily record shows and manipulate live TV. We love to watch sporting events, but, often, the commercials for those are the very worst things on TV. A DVR allows you to pause a live event for a few minutes and then skip all the commercials! This will also allow your husband to watch his shows later if they are inappropriate for your children. Perhaps he won’t mind turning them off when the kids are around if he knows he can catch up later.

Can you and your husband agree on a decent show to follow together? In our house, we have a series or two that we record on the DVR and watch after the kids go to bed. It turns into a mini date night for us, and instead of retreating to different corners of the house with our iPhone or Facebook page, we snuggle on the coach and enjoy each other’s company. It helps the TV to be unitive, not divisive.

The McDonalds are family-life directors for the Archdiocese of Mobile, Alabama.