TV, the Not-So-Silent Intruder
About the Guest
On today's broadcast, John Reynolds, director of sales and marketing with TiVO, and Rebecca Hagelin, vice president of The Heritage Foundation, give some practical suggestions for making television viewing more family friendly.
John Reynolds and Rebecca Hagelin give some practical ideas for making television viewing more family friendly.
Bob: Christians are supposed to stay engaged with what's going on in the world around us, aren't we? And isn't TV essential for making that happen? Here's Bob DeMoss.
Bob DeMoss: Well, that's where I think we've made a huge mistake. We've assumed that television puts us in touch, and the reality it breaks down communication. It doesn't connect us. We know more about "Survivor Island" than we do our neighbor next door. If we truly wanted to be in touch and be connected, we'd be talking to people, we'd be entering into relationships, we wouldn't be all together alone in a room. I'm in my room watching TV, my son is in his room, and the kids are in the family room. Everybody – it's mutual isolation. We're not a family. It's like Motel 6, we're all checked into a room, but we're not talking to each other.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Monday, July 24th. Our host is the president of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine, and I think I see where this is heading, what our host has in mind. I'm pretty sure I'm not going to like it.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today, thanks for joining us on the Monday edition.
Dennis: Ah, yes, it's that time of year.
Bob: You know who that was, that's that troublemaker, Bob DeMoss, who wrote that book years ago called "TV, the Great Escape," and said that we ought to …
Dennis: Yeah, and I looked at that book, and I got a great idea.
Bob: No, you didn't.
Dennis: It's a great idea.
Bob: You came up with this whole concept that …
Dennis: One of the best ideas I've had in a long time.
Bob: "We ought to take a month and turn off the TV and boy, we really" …
Dennis: You really like that idea, don't you"
Bob: Well, I think it's a fine idea, Mr. Rainey.
Dennis: San Antonio doesn't play basketball in August, Bob.
Bob: At least you picked August when it's reruns and …
Dennis: I could pick May when the NBA, you know, when they're playing, but I didn't do that. I picked a month with the downsides of college football or …
Bob: For the last several years, we've been encouraging listeners to consider having the whole family take a month and turn off the TV completely for the month, right?
Dennis: You got it.
Bob: No TV viewing whatsoever, just a fast, a break from television, and while I'm not always in full support of that idea, I am here to say if that's what you want to recommend to our listeners, I'll stand by you. I'm trying my best here.
Dennis: You're going to do it again. You're going to do it again. Tell the truth.
Bob: We need to have a little family council and just make sure that …
Dennis: Do you think there's going to be mutiny at your place?
Bob: I think there is going to be perhaps armed resistance is what I'm thinking, you know?
Dennis: Well, perhaps your children need to hear this letter from a young man who wrote me a year ago when he had to fast. He said, "Dear Dennis, I listened to your broadcast on Sunday night about the TV fast. I'm 17 years old, a senior at a magnet high school. I'm going to turn off the TV fast this August. Well, your dialog succeeded in grabbing my attention and also stimulated my sense of competition. After two full months of TVs, movies, and music, I honestly think a TV fast is a good idea to give myself a break from all that stimuli."
Bob: This is a 17-year-old, right?
Dennis: Yeah, right. "I especially listened as you guys spoke about MTV. That channel is a window to the spiritual and intellectual waste that my generation and my world is in today and is producing. I'll tell my youth group about the fast as well. Maybe I'll get a few more to join me."
Bob: Why do you think this is such a great idea?
Dennis: Well, I think, first of all, like this young man said, I think there is so much stimuli, I think we all need an oasis to recover from this tube that continues to bombard us and, plus, Bob, TV really is, from a cultural standpoint, invading our homes.
Bob: You know, that young man made reference to MTV, and we talked not long ago with Rebecca Hagelin, who is an author and a speaker. She is with the Heritage Foundation and has written a book called "Home Invasion" about popular culture and its impact on families, and she mentioned MTV in our conversation with her as one of the negative influences that families have to be aware of.
Rebecca: [Taped] Folks, this is not your grandmother's MTV. It is a compilation of nothing more than highly sexualized, highly violent programming. Beyond the music videos, there is so much on MTV and VH1 now that has nothing to do with music videos. You have the great spring break specials that have teenagers licking whipped cream off of each other's bodies. Parents, this is a wake-up call. This is what kids are seeing on MTV every day is this kind of vulgarity, this kind of attacking our sensibilities. What's really important for parents to know is that the creators and the marketers and the people who run MTV right now actually brag about how they know – not how to market to teenagers – but how to manipulate the minds of teenagers.
And our young people, make no mistake, Mom and Dad, are looking for direction from someone every day of their lives about what's acceptable and what's not acceptable, and when you're down in the kitchen preparing dinner while your child is upstairs behind closed doors watching MTV or on the Internet, your child takes that as acceptance.
You have to be an informed parent today. Let me quickly say that I love modern technology. I think it has the potential to be the great liberator of the American family allowing more moms and dads to work at home, I mean, certainly we can spread the Gospel around the world through all these great technological means, so I'm not anti-technology. But what I'm trying to drive home to parents is you have to be on the cutting edge of technology and understand that people are using technology to harm your children, and it's mainly because of the almighty dollar.
Dennis: That's right.
Rebecca: And there's one thing that all you listeners should be doing, too, as they join your campaign is that when they come back to allowing television back in their homes, there is a new campaign that's been put out by the cable television companies, which I just think is great, and they are offering to every family in America that does not have parental controls on their cable system, they are offering to them for free, no charge. I actually went to the press conference, and I said, "Okay, I want you to show me what you're offering, and here are all my questions. Are you telling me a truck will come out and bring me a box for free if I call?" They said, "Yes." "Are you telling me somebody will show me how to use it?" They said, "Yes." I said, "How does a middle America mom and dad find out about this?"
They do have a website. I encourage everybody to go to it. It's called "ControlYourTV.com, and if you have cable television, you can call your local cable provider, they have the numbers right there, if you put in where you live, and they will bring you, with no charge, parental controls.
Bob: Well, that's Rebecca Hagelin from The Heritage Foundation talking about the reality of why parents need to take control, really, why we need a break from TV from time to time, you know, why we need to just pull back and see what it's saying and doing.
Dennis: Well, Bob, I think what the fast will do for parents as well as children is clear your head of all the clutter and realize how much TV does have a message and is bombarding you, your spouse, and your family with messages. And, you know, you wouldn't think of bringing unhealthy food into your home and then serving it up on a platter to your children. Well, what this fast does, I think, is pull us back from the table a bit, allows us to take a look at what's being served up, and I think it's going to put parents back in charge of the media diet that they're serving their children.
Bob: And, as Rebecca said, when you do come back and re-introduce TV, assuming you will in September, you'll turn the TV back on. You turn it back on a little wiser as a parent and with a little more control, whether it's what the cable TV industry is doing with the parental controls that they've put in or Tivo, the digital video recorder and the service that they provide, they've come up with something new that provides parental control as well. In fact, John Reynolds from Tivo is on the line with us to tell us about Kid Zone, and, John, welcome to FamilyLife Today. Tell our listeners who don't know what Tivo is – tell them about Tivo.
John: [from telephone] Sure. Tivo is really a service that runs on our digital video recorder, and the digital video recorder has a hard drive in there that allows you to record all your shows onto a hard drive – no tapes, no timers, no worries, you simply set up and tell Tivo when you want a particular show recorded, and it will go ahead and do that. You can even set up what we call a "Season Pass," so if you have a particular show that you really enjoy, you can set up a Season Pass for it, and Tivo will record it every time it's on, even if the date changes the time changes, Tivo will follow it and record it. And then what happens is you have all those recordings on your hard drive which essentially becomes your own little television network so that you can watch what you want when you want to watch it, not necessarily when it's on, quite honestly.
Dennis: So you're saying that Bob Lepine could watch "24" all season and record it on his hard drive?
John: If Bob's like me, he records a couple of extra "24s," waits maybe an extra week, and then you can watch two of them back-to-back and get two hours and get through it in probably an hour and 20 minutes.
Bob: Yeah, there are a few things you get to cut out with that fast forward button.
John: Indeed. Yeah, there's a fast forward button that can help you through some commercial breaks.
Dennis: You established a product called Tivo Kid Zone?
Dennis: Would you explain to our listeners how that works?
John: I'd be happy to. What it is, it's simply a service or a feature enhancement to the current Tivo service and, as you know, the 50-year-old question is how do I provide an appropriate television environment to the home in my home. We think we have an extremely good solution to that, and it's called "Tivo Kid Zone." And what it does is it provides parents really a couple of things – expert guidance on shows that they can go out and find. We've partnered with some terrific children's organizations, one being the Parent Television Council, the other being a company called "Common Sense Media," and another being "Parent's Choice Foundation." They will actually make recommendations on kid's shows that me and Beth, my wife, as parents, can automatically set up to record. So that's the first thing. It's an idea of discovering new shows.
But then additionally, Tivo Kid Zone provides a parent the opportunity to control what TV is being recorded on the Tivo, and that's pretty important. So what we can do is, we can select an age range based on our kids, and Tivo will only record shows that we say are appropriate, and they'll live in a password-protected area on the Tivo. So my daughter, Maddie, who is five, will have her own "Now Playing" list, which is a snapshot of the hard drive. So it will be only the shows that we see fit for her to see will live in that area.
Bob: You basically, as a parent, go in and preapprove the shows that Maddie can watch, and that's what Tivo captures, and when Maddie sits down to watch something, you don't have to worry because you've already handpicked it, right?
John: Exactly, and it's a password-protected environment, so if Beth and I go out to dinner, and we have a babysitter, we can feel completely comfortable that the only programming they're going to be able to watch is the programming we've approved as parents.
Bob: So it's possible, in this environment, for Mom and Dad to have the Tivo box there and to decide, "Okay, here's what we think. We think that Nickelodeon, we're not really happy with everything on Nickelodeon, so we'll pick one or two shows from there. We're going to let – maybe we'll let Disney Channel through, but we certainly don't want MTV, and we don't want E! Entertainment Television. So we're going to block those completely out, and there's no way our kids can get to it."
John: Absolutely, and that's obviously at the discretion of the parent, but we give the parent the power to do that. We've created what we consider to be a really valuable tool for a parent to use, really to, I guess, capture programming that's representative of the values in their home. And we let the parent decide on that, but the example you gave, absolutely, is possible.
Bob: John, thanks for taking time to be with us, and we'll spread the word.
John: I appreciate it. Thanks very much for having me.
Dennis: You bet, thanks, John.
John: Have a nice day.
Bob: You know, we don't have the Tivo service at our house. We do have a digital recorder, one of the digital video recorders.
Dennis: And I don't have …
Bob: You don't have that.
Dennis: I don't have either.
Bob: I'm thinking that the way this August TV fast thing can work this year is I can just tape 100 hours on my digital video recorder of whatever would be on in August, and then in September we just …
Dennis: Watch it all?
Bob: Yeah, baby.
Dennis: Overdose, overdose in September. Well, you may need to hear a letter from a young listener who lives in Spring Lake, Michigan. His name is Thomas, and this is really a sweet letter that I received almost a year ago when we had our turn off the TV fast, and we must have sent out, at that time, a plastic cover for the TV.
Bob: We still have these. They're cling sheets on your TV that say, "Turn Off The TV Fast" on them, so that anytime you're tempted to go turn on the TV, it's staring right at you saying, "Uh-uh, don't turn me on this month."
Dennis: So it's just kind of like saran wrap that goes on the TV there. Well, here's what Thomas said – "Mr. Rainey, This is Thomas. I'm 12, and my mama is typing this out for me. I have autism and CP, but Jesus loves me, and I love Him all the time in my heart. I want to do the TV Off, okay, with my sister, Tory, and my mom and my dad, too. Jesus saved me from bad places, and I live here now. Thank you for the sign on my TV, because it is good not to watch junk on TV to make my mind bad. I want a good mind to be good for Jesus to use me. I love you, Thomas."
Bob: You read that just to shame me with my 100 hours of TV.
Dennis: No, I really didn't. I just think that here is a young man, Thomas, who has autism, and you know what? I think he's kind of put the cookies on the lower shelf for all of us to kind of go, you know what? Simply put, too much time in front of the tube just kind of dilutes your thinking and makes you think about bad things, and I think he's reminding us that the eye and the mind are gates to the soul, and we need to protect them.
Bob: We had one of our previous TV fasters on the phone line with us. She lives in Wilmington, North Carolina. Her name is Audrey Foster.
Dennis: Audrey, welcome to FamilyLife Today.
Audrey: [from telephone] Thank you, it's a privilege to be on the phone with you.
Dennis: Say hi to Bob.
Audrey: Hey, Bob, how are you?
Bob: Audrey, hi, I'm fine. You heard the programs where we talked about television last summer, right?
Bob: What did you think?
Audrey: Well, I considered your challenge for a few hours, and then I got up the courage to bring it up to my husband to see what he thought about it, and …
Dennis: Now, wait a second, I need to ask you, why would it be courageous to talk to your husband about this?
Audrey: Well, he's a TV junkie. He loves television.
Bob: Does he? Is that how he unwinds in the evening?
Audrey: It definitely is.
Dennis: So you screwed up your courage, walked in there boldly, and you said what?
Audrey: I said, "Well, I heard this thing on the radio, what do you think about not watching television for a month?" And he sat down, and his jaw dropped, and he said, "I – I – what?"
Bob: He told you to quit listening to the radio, I bet, didn't he?
Audrey: Basically, but I convinced him, and we did it.
Bob: As you thought about your marriage and about your family, were you thinking the TV was a trouble spot for you?
Audrey: In a way, it was just something else that was robbing our time and our attention from where I felt it needed to be.
Dennis: As you began to go through the month, what did you notice about how you spent your time and how it impacted your relationship with your husband?
Audrey: It was just so much more peaceful. We would listen to music, and we'd actually have time to talk because – well, the TV's not on, there's not much else to do, so we would talk, and it was in the summer, so 8:00 at night you could still take a stroll around the block and play with our son. He loved to be outside and so instead of making him stay cooped up in the house in the evening, we'd go outside.
Bob: You've got a three-year-old, Jacob, right?
Bob: And was he a TV viewer at this time? Did he watch videos or …
Audrey: Yes, he was, and we do let him watch a little bit of TV, because he couldn't quite understand why we wouldn't let him watch that.
Bob: When you got to the end of the month, Audrey, was it one of those things where you went, "Oh, you know, in two days we'll be able to watch TV again."
Audrey: No, not at all. It actually stayed off for quite some time. You know, occasionally we turned it on to watch the news or watch a movie or something, but it definitely was off a lot less. And then towards when it got colder, towards the winter, I've noticed that it's been – we almost went back to where we were before with watching the television, and just hearing you all wanting to talk to me about this again, it kind of makes me want to bring it up to my husband – "Let's do that again."
Dennis: It fires you up again. Well …
Audrey: It certainly does.
Dennis: In August we're going to do it again.
Audrey: Oh, okay.
Dennis: All right, now, I have to ask you, do you think you're going to do this again with your husband?
Audrey: Sure, I definitely think so.
Dennis: You think he'll go along with it?
Audrey: Yeah, if he did the first time, you know, and I'll just play this back to him, and I don't see how he could say no.
Bob: Well, Audrey, again, thanks for letting us know about how last August went for you and your family, and we hope this August goes well, too.
Audrey: Oh, I'm sure it will. I appreciate your ministry, very much so.
Bob: Good to talk to you today.
Audrey: Thank you, you, too.
Bob: You know, it's always fun to be able to connect with a listener not just by e-mail or by letter but to be able to talk to folks and hear how things went, and it sounds like, for the Fosters, the TV fast was an okay thing.
Dennis: [laughing] Even though you had the benefit of a year ago, you're retreating on me, Bob. You've got to stand strong now. Stand up straight, throw your shoulders back as the champion of your family, the spiritual leader.
["Pomp and Circumstance" playing]
Bob: All right, come on, let's …
Dennis: And repeat after me.
Dennis: I will be strong.
Bob: I will be strong.
Dennis: I will lead my family.
Bob: [weakly] I will lead my family.
Dennis: In turning off the television.
Bob: [mumbles] In turning off the television.
Dennis: For the rest of the year.
Bob: For the rest of the year! No, no, no, no, no, let's not carried away with this. You're just talking 30 days, right?
Dennis: Thirty days, the month of August.
Bob: Hath September, April, June, and – no, it's 31 in August, aren't they? So I've got to go the full 31 days.
Dennis: The full 31. In fact, I have three points in closing here. Number one, I want to challenge you, our listener, right now, whether you're single, whether you're married without children, whether only half of the deal is listening to this broadcast or the whole deal, both husband and wife are listening, I want to challenge you to pick up the mantle, turn it off, but do a second thing. I'd like to encourage you as a wife, a mother, as a dad, as a father, to set some goals and establish some 30-day activities for your spouse, for your children, and for your family. Set some tangible, fun activities, things that you maybe did when you dated, things that you enjoy doing but haven't done in years because maybe television has robbed you of some of those great privileges.
And then, third, I'd like to challenge the couples to get a copy of "Moments Together for Couples," and for the next 30 days begin the process of reading a daily devotional, either before you leave for work or in the evening before you turn the lights out. Barbara and I like to talk and interact around magazines and things we're reading there in bed before we turn out the lights in the evening. Well, here is a practical way for a couple to connect with one another and to talk about something of meaning in the evening. "Moments Together for Couples," which contains daily readings that can be read in less than five minutes.
Bob: We've got the book available in our FamilyLife Resource Center. You can contact us to request a copy. You can also sign up to receive "Moments Together for Couples," via e-mail. It's one of the things that we send out to folks. You go to FamilyLife.com and subscribe to "Moments Together for Couples." So, either way, you can get a hardback copy of the book or have the e-mail sent to you each day. Go to our website at FamilyLife.com, and we can take care of that.
We've got some other resources we want to make available during the month of August. We've put together a book called "Fifty Nights of Family Fun," and there are 50 great ideas for you and your family to participate in – activities, things you can do while the TV is off during the month of August.
And have you seen the other thing our team has come up with?
Bob: We have two static cling sheets that you can put on the front of your television set to remind everybody in the family that you're taking the month off from TV. So anytime anybody looks over at the TV, there will be a sign clinging to the screen to remind everyone that our focus is in a little different place during the month of August.
Go online at FamilyLife.com or call 1-800-FLTODAY. We want to know how many folks are going to go along with us. We'd like you to sign up, whether you're calling to get the resources or not. Call us and say "Okay, our family is going to go along with this, and let us get you registered as a family that will participate in the August TV Fast with us. Again, the number of 1-800-FLTODAY or go online at FamilyLife.com.
Well, tomorrow we want to find out what a young family that is plugged in, I mean, not just to TV but media is a part of their life – the Internet, the iPod, the whole thing. We're going to find out how the idea of a TV Fast sits with them, and we'll talk to another listener who has already been through it and see what she thought about it. That's coming up tomorrow. I hope you can be back with us for that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We'll see you next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas, a ministry of Campus Crusade for Christ.
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