From Terry Mattingly here are 20 Ways to Control Television in Your Family’s Life, or at least the ones that struck me:
1 – Have only one television set in the home. . . . Having only one set at least makes the family confront this imaginary [TV] world together.
3 – Children should never watch TV alone. If you stick with this rule, it will have an amazing impact on your whole family.
4 – Learn to program your VCR. Jay Leno says that whenever he visits his parents’ house, dozens of electronic gadgets are blinking “12:00, 12:00, 12:00.” That won’t do. If you can program your VCR, you can control what you watch and when you choose to watch it. You can mark up the local TV listings and tape the good stuff. This leads to the rule that we try to follow in our household. We strive to average watching only one hour of visual media a day—on tape. (As a journalist, I allow myself in addition one news show.)
5 – Have a greatest-hits shelf, containing taped programs that are worth repeated use. You might consider getting a “classic” movie cable channel, so that you can teach your children not to be prejudiced against the past.
8 – Talk back to the TV. Voice your opinions—especially on the moral and religious content in programs and even in advertisements. Let your children, every now and then, see you reject the content or the quality of a TV show or rented movie so completely that you turn it off.
9 – Allow no TV on Saturday mornings before noon. Ever. This is the time slot in which children are first hooked on niche culture, youth fads, and the idea that it is good for them to purchase their own identities at the mall. Saturday morning TV is a parent-free zone.
11 – Dare to consider this: No TV at all during Great Lent.
12 – Men! Dare to consider this: One sporting event a week on television. Women! Ditch Oprah, the high priestess of American pantheism.
13 – Whenever you can, read the books before you watch movies based on books, even if this means skipping a movie for some time. Why? You can teach children a great truth—that stories have creators that shape them and the values contained in them. Plus, there is more story in the book. That’s the real version.
14 – Understand what it means to purchase a VHS tape or a DVD. When you do this, you are recommending this movie or program to your children for repeated viewing. You are saying that there is something in it that we want to see many, many times. Why? Why is it that good? Have that conversation.
15 – It is good for parents to have a favorite TV show or movie and to explain to their children why it matters so much to them. We must confess that our entertainment choices affect us and say something about who we are.
17 – It’s okay to enjoy fun movies, even if they make little or no sense. God created fun. Silliness can be relaxing. Don’t let your children think you are a grouch all the time on media issues. Embrace the Pink Panther and Laurel and Hardy.
18 – Tell other parents about your rules and ask them for help when their children interact with your children. Share your rules with school personnel and after-school workers and ask for their help.
19 – Vocalize exceptions to the rules. We will all bend our media rules for special events, like the Olympics or “Alec Guinness Week” on Turner Classic Movies. But if we speak these exceptions out loud, it will only reinforce the rules and make them easier to understand.
20 – Demand positive, as well as negative, media feedback from your church leaders. Form an Internet circle for parents, in order to share info and views with friends. Post the addresses of helpful web sites on the church’s web site. Praise the good and pass on videocassettes.
And, yes, dare to talk to your priest about this part of your lives, including in confession. The condition that I call “separation of church and life” is a heresy.