Impacting the Next Generation of Families, One Television Show at a Time

Do you believe television has had an impact on the way people view families? Do you perceive these views to be more positive or negative? When reviewing various television shows, the change over the past number of years has been utterly drastic when comparing families and the relationships within them.

According to dictionary.com, the traditional family definition states that a family is a social unit consisting of parents and their children, considered as a group, whether dwelling together or not. While everybody’s families look different nowadays, the foundational aspect of a family is still the same. A family not only encourages, but also supports the child/children. A child should feel safe and protected around his or her family. Typically, a child’s home life plays a crucial role in the upbringing as well as future stability of the child. Unfortunately, because of our sin nature and influence of the world families have been slowly declining and they are now easily attacked. Families are not as strong as they used to be. They were once seen as the strongest unit for a child. Now, a lot of children are scared to even go home for lack of security and protection. One can find stories upon stories of children who have been attacked verbally, physically, and mentally within their own home. The mental stability is now lacking because of their past experiences and trauma.

Another factor which has played a huge role in any child’s life is television. The impact which entertainment has had on everybody, not just children, is quite astonishing. Here are some statistics which the University of Michigan has formulated which should open your eyes to how influential and common television has become:

· On average, children ages 2–5 spend 32 hours a week in front of a TV — watching television, DVDs, DVR and videos, and using a game console.

· Kids ages 6–11 spend about 28 hours a week in front of the TV.

· 71% of 8- to 18-year-olds have a TV in their bedroom.

· In about two-thirds of households, the TV is “usually” on during meals.

· In 53% of households of 7th- to 12th-graders, there are no rules about TV watching.

· In 51% of households, the TV is on “most” of the time.

· Kids with a TV in their bedroom spend an average of almost 1.5 hours more per day watching TV than kids without a TV in the bedroom.

· Many parents encourage their toddlers to watch television.

With that being said, it is no wonder our brains are always ‘on-the-go.’ They never quite seem to shut off. Within that television watching, many have been produced based around families. Over the years, it seems as though the morals and values which families should be based around are slowly declining. Parents do not discipline their children how they used to, and the children do not give their parents the respect they deserve. Children are free to do what they want and when they want. The conversations which occur within the home as well as outside of the home are not ones which are always uplifting or even positive. The parents’ roles have also been switched at times. For instance, although having a working mom and stay-at-home dad is not wrong, the attitudes which come from these status roles do not always represent ones which respect one another. Among some families both parents work outside of the home. Others, the dad typically goes out to work while the mom stays home with the kids. The mother can still have a good paying job while working from home as well. Whatever the case may be, certain job requirements and circumstances work better than others.

When relating to television, as mentioned above, some families do not portray themselves as strong healthy home situations. In the fifties and sixties, some family television shows include Andy Griffith, The Dick Van Dyke Show, and Leave it to Beaver. Among these shows, one will find your typical family scenario. The parents are still married and have good jobs. The kids are required to attend school and work hard inside and outside of the home. While the kids still found themselves getting into mischief every now and then (especially Leave it to Beaver), they still obey and respect their parents. Conversations around the dinner table are natural, television was not common, and they learned how to communicate and discipline well. In a show such as Andy Griffith, we find the dad taking care of his son because the mother had passed away. Even in this family dynamic, the boy was well loved and taken care of by not only his dad, but also his grandmother. He felt safe and well protected by both parties. In each of these television series, the family is well-rounded and well-behaved.

We press forward a few years and family television series which were common are Family Matters, Full House, Home Improvement, 7th Heaven, and my personal favorite The Cosby Show. Though many years have passed, a handful of the same values are still common. However, we see more blended families start to form. Full House, for instance, is an example of a single parent as well as blended family. The father’s wife had died leaving him with his three daughters. He does not raise them alone, however. His brother-in-law and best friend come to live with them. Later on, his brother-in-law gets married and has two kids of his own. Although the family continues to grow, the relationships stay the same and even grow stronger. Even with the mother gone, the kids are still respectful to their father and still go about their daily chores and living. We find this type of scenario very popular nowadays as spouses pass away, and the husband or wife is left to raise the kids either by himself/herself or with the help of relatives. Among The Cosby Show we see a family who is reared up and taught on true values. The father and mother both have well paid jobs, the kids go to school, and they are still extremely close as a family. They learn how to get along and how to face difficulties and challenges in life. They go through life together and communicate openly and honestly with one another. One can learn how to enjoy life with your family based on these television series.

Jump forward to our twenty-first century family television series where the most common ones are Gilmore Girls, Family Guy, The Simpsons, and Modern Family. With Gilmore Girls, the mom is a single-parent who got pregnant at sixteen and is now raising her daughter on her own. Though the father is not exactly in the picture, the mom and daughter have a parent/best friend relationship. Family values in Modern Family are almost not existent. Many different family dynamics and marriages are formed, such as an older man with a much younger wife and a gay couple. Within the ‘normal’ family, the dad is seen as dumb while the mom runs the house, and the kids are free to do whatever they want. This type of parenting and influence is very common in today’s culture. Most television shows today represent the mother being smarter and more educated than the father, and the kids disrespect the parents without any questioning. The downhill spiral of family television shows is quite drastic and devastating.

With the rise of television and entertainment, parents should be cautious in what they allow their children to watch. While not all television shows are wrong, they can encourage a type of behavior or thinking which can be detrimental in a child’s upbringing. If a child grows up watching a family which has two dads or a family consisting of only one parent, he or she might start to believe that is okay. God did not intend for this type of upbringing. A biblical marriage consists of one man and one woman joined together under God. They are to place Him first in their marriage above everything else. Once children start to be born, they are to raise them according to the instruction given by God in His Word. We are highly influenced by today’s culture, and we need to be aware of what we place into our minds because those thoughts will start to form how we perceive not only families to be, but everything else.

Sources

Boyse, Kyla. “Television and Children.” N.P. August 2010. Web. Assessed 16 March 2017. http://www.med.umich.edu/yourchild/topics/tv.htm.

“family”. The American Heritage® New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition. Houghton Mifflin Company, 2005. Assessed 16 Mar. 2017. <Dictionary.com http://www.dictionary.com/browse/family>.

Grunlan, Stephen A., and Milton Reimer. Christian Perspectives on Sociology. Wipf and Stock Publishers, 2001.