Is it true that what goes in, comes out?

I was doing some research recently and found some disturbing statistics. The average child watches 1,680 minutes of TV in a week. That same child spends 3.5 minutes a week in meaningful conversation with their parents. That child will spend 900 hours in school a year. And that child will watch 1500 hours of television in a year.

I love TV. I’m not against it at all. But as I thought about these stats I began to understand why people think and behave the way they do.

As I study the stats above, I realize how much TV is shaping the way our children think. It is incredible to see that they will get more TV input than they will world history and classic books in English class. It is incredible that they watch so much more TV than they have meaningful conversations with their parents. Honestly, who is doing the teaching? Can they get more from that three minutes a week than they can from the twenty-five plus hours of TV they are watching? I am not sure.

If all they watch are shows like Desperate Housewives and How I Met Your Mother, then gradually those shows will begin to shape their thinking. It never happens overnight. They won’t watch one episode and suddenly think that sleeping around is a culturally acceptable thing. These kind of shifts in thinking never happen suddenly. It is a gradual procession, a constant stream that like any river wears away at the edge of the riverbank. In this case, their mother might have taught the traditional point of view that they should wait for marriage and that sex is special. After two years of watching such shows their thinking might, it is quite easy to see how they might begin to see it as acceptable.

I have seen it in myself. After fifteen years of watching movies and TV I feel my idealistic and innocent self has mostly disappeared. I always knew what was right and honest and good. Everything was black and white. But slowly, over the years, I took a few steps off the path. I didn’t realize I was off the path until I was so far off that I couldn’t even see it anymore.

So what’s the fix? Well, it means changing the input.

If it is true that our best thinking comes from those we spend time with, the range of experiences we have, and our level of learning, then it would stand to reason that we would want those three things to be the best possible. We would want intelligent and resourceful friends. We would want broad experiences that leave us with positive growth and understanding of ourselves and the world around us. And we would want a consistently increasing level of learning.

I think most of us can agree with this principle.

We know that our choice on whether to cross a busy road has been shaped by our knowledge of how fast cars move, what happens to those who don’t look both ways, and how we know such an accident would change our lives for the worst.

We also know that hanging out with a drug dealer who is on the lamb from the FBI is not a safe thing to do. We have seen enough TV and read enough books to know that a gunfight is bound to ensue. We also may make a decent assumption, based on our experience with people, that such a person is not the kind of man we would want our daughter dating or whom we would want to hang around for very long if we want to live a happy, peaceful life to the age of 85.

If we want our children to have the best possible thinking, the most rewarding life, then it means we must make sure that what they learn and what influences them is the best it possibly can be. If our children are watching so much television, we must make sure that the television is broadcasting the right things, the kind of things we want our children to learn and believe.

© Seth Crossman