TV, movies & music (Family Safety)
Our choice of TV, movies, and music has a profound effect on what we view as right and wrong. Church leaders have urged us for many years to make good choices in this regard. With the new trend toward moving television and movie content onto the Internet, and the wide availability of music for digital devices, families need to be even more vigilant regarding the teaching of proper habits regarding the media in our lives. This page is intended to help with some of these issues.
Media choices, including TV, movies and music, have a profound ability to bring us closer to, or drive us away from, the Spirit in our lives. We have been taught many times in General Conference about the need to make rightous choices with regard to the media influences in our lives. Elder Ballard once said: "Because of its sheer size, media today presents vast and sharply contrasting options. Opposite from its harmful and permissive side, media offers much that is positive and productive. Television offers history channels, discovery channels, education channels. One can still find movies and TV comedies and dramas that entertain and uplift and accurately depict the consequences of right and wrong. The Internet can be a fabulous tool of information and communication, and there is an unlimited supply of good music in the world." There is much good that can come from choosing uplifting media in our lives, and participating as a family in wholesome entertainment when it comes to television, movies and music. These experiences can uplift, instruct and even bring families closer together - all of which are part of Heavenly Fathers plan for us.
Poor choices in media can also have devastating effects on the family. Elder Ballard went on to teach that "The choices we make in media can be symbolic of the choices we make in life. Choosing the trendy, the titillating, the tawdry in the TV programs or movies we watch can cause us to end up, if we’re not careful, choosing the same things in the lives we live. If we do not make good choices, the media can devastate our families and pull our children away from the narrow gospel path. In the virtual reality and the perceived reality of large and small screens, family-destructive viewpoints and behavior are regularly portrayed as pleasurable, as stylish, as exciting, and as normal."
According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, the percentage of television prime-time shows with sexual content jumped from 67 percent in 1998 to 75 percent in the year 2000. Treating something so sacred with such little respect can have undesirable effects on your minds. We know that it fosters a callous attitude toward women, who are often portrayed in these shows as objects rather than human beings who are daughters of a loving Heavenly Father. This creates a clear line between those morals taught by God, and those portrayed in media as acceptable. Children learn to downplay those morals that they hear on Sunday, in favor of those that they see in prime time on Monday through Saturday.
Seeing and hearing about violence also has devastating effects on families. Elder Ballard also taught: "We must be concerned with the violent and sexually charged lyrics of much of today’s popular music and the relatively new “art form” of the music video."
In a study written up in the Journal of Communication, it is approximated that three-fourths of all the music videos tell a story utilizing sexual imagery, and nearly half involve violence. Elder Bednar also warned us of the dangers of violence in our media choices when he reminded us that we should always maintain our Gospel standards, even when playing games. He said: "...a simulation or model can lead to spiritual impairment and danger if the fidelity is high and the purposes are bad—such as experimenting with actions contrary to God’s commandments or enticing us to think or do things we would not otherwise think or do 'because it is only a game.'"
In 1961 Dr. Albert Bandura performed a study to find out what the consequences would be of watching violence. He wanted to see what effect violent behavior would have on those who observe the behavior - and prove whether it was carthartic or instructive. His now-famous study is referred to as the Bobo doll experiment. He found that watching violent behavior is actually instructive - and that those children who were exposed to violence actually modeled the violent behavior after viewing it. Of this experiment, Dr. Bandura said "It was once widely believed that seeing others vent aggression would drain the viewers aggressive drive…exposure to aggressive modeling is hardly cathartic. Exposure to aggressive modeling increased attraction to guns, even though it was never modeled” (as quoted in a video on the study).
Tips & suggestions
The counsel given to our youth is applicable to all: "Do not attend, view, or participate in entertainment that is vulgar, immoral, violent, or pornographic in any way. Do not participate in entertainment that in any way presents immorality or violent behavior as acceptable. … Have the courage to walk out of a movie or video party, turn off a computer or television, change a radio station, or put down a magazine if what is being presented does not meet Heavenly Father’s standards. Do these things even if others do not."
Elder Ballard also gave us 7 things we can do to minimize the negative effects of our media choices in our families. They are:
- We need to hold family councils and decide what our media standards are going to be.
- We need to spend enough quality time with our children that we are consistently the main influence in their lives, not the media or any peer group.
- We need to make good media choices ourselves and set good examples for our children.
- We need to limit the amount of time our children watch TV or play video games or use the Internet each day. Virtual reality must not become their reality.
- We need to use Internet filters and TV programming locks to prevent our children from “chancing upon” things they should not see.
- We need to have TVs and computers in a much-used common room in the home, not in a bedroom or a private place.
- We need to take time to watch appropriate media with our children and discuss with them how to make choices that will uplift and build rather than degrade and destroy.
Advice from Church leaders
- Elder M. Russell Ballard: "The new morality preached from the media’s pulpit is nothing more than the old immorality. It attacks religion. It undermines the family. It turns virtue into vice and vice into virtue. It assaults the senses and batters the soul with messages and images that are neither virtuous, nor lovely, nor of good report, nor praiseworthy. The time has come when members of the Church need to speak out and join with the many other concerned people in opposition to the offensive, destructive, and mean-spirited media influence that is sweeping over the earth."
- Elder David A. Bednar: "For your happiness and protection, I invite you to study more diligently the doctrine of the plan of salvation—and to prayerfully ponder the truths we have reviewed. I offer two questions for consideration in your personal pondering and prayerful studying:
- Does the use of various technologies and media invite or impede the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost in your life?
- Does the time you spend using various technologies and media enlarge or restrict your capacity to live, to love, and to serve in meaningful ways?"
- M. Russell Ballard, “Let Our Voices Be Heard”, Ensign, Nov 2003, 16
- See Dale Kunkel and others, Sex on TV 2003: A Biennial Report to the Kaiser Family Foundation (2003), 40
- See Barry L. Sherman and Joseph R. Dominick, “Violence and Sex in Music and Videos: TV and Rock ’n’ Roll,” Journal of Communication, Winter 1986, 79–93
- David A. Bednar, “Things as They Really Are", Ensign, Jun 2010, 16–25
- Dr. Albert Bandura, Albert Bandura Bobo doll study, Youtube video
- For the Strength of Youth (2001), 17, 19