A Christian Perspective of
the Systemic Outcomes of Media Addictions – Part 6
©2003 Kimberly Hartfield
Television viewing is a major influence on children and adolescents, even in Christian families, who may limit this activity more so than others might. Children here in the United States watch about three or four hours of television a day. By the time they graduate from high school, they will have spent more time watching TV than they have in school. While television may entertain, inform, and babysit our children, it can also impact and shape them in undesirable ways. The time they spend watching television takes away from more important activities like recreational reading, school work, playing outdoors, exercising, family time, and social interaction. Children also learn a good bit of information from television that may be considered inappropriate, untrue, or offensive by most Christian families. Young children often can’t tell the difference between what is real and what is fantasy, and are influenced by the thousands of commercials they see each year, many of which are for alcohol, junk food, fast foods, and toys. Many may have a sexuality aspect in them, as well. Children who watch a lot of TV may have lower grades, read fewer books, exercise less, and may be overweight.
Television can be a powerful influence in developing value systems and shaping behavior. Violence, sexuality, race and gender stereotypes, drug and alcohol abuse are common themes of the TV programs offered today, along with their commercials. As Christians, we should never allow TV viewing to become so prominent in our children’s lives that it contributes to shaping their values. Young children are so impressionable and may assume that what they see on television is common, safe, and acceptable. Unfortunately, there is a lot of violence on the TV programs we are offered in these days and times. Many studies of the effects of violence on TV on children and teenagers have found that they may accept the horrors of violence as normal, accepting it as a way to solve problems, identifying with certain characters, such as victims and/or victimizers, while copying the types of violence they see on TV. Extensive viewing of violence on TV by children has been shown to cause greater aggressiveness in them. Children, who view shows in which the violence is very realistic, repeated often, or goes unpunished, are more likely to copy what they see. Also, children with emotional, behavioral, learning or impulse control problems may be more easily influenced by TV violence. The impact of TV violence may be immediately seen in a child’s behavior or may be seen years later. Young people from Christian families can also be affected, even when their family atmosphere has no tendency toward violence. While TV violence is not the only cause of aggressive behaviors, it is clearly a big factor in the rise of these kinds of behaviors.
The growth of online services and internet access has very real risks for both adults and unsupervised children. Many people now have access to an unlimited amount of information and more opportunities for interaction with unacceptable materials. The natural impulsivity and curiosity of young people is gratified by the constant stimulation the online experience offers. Too many parents still don’t realize that guidance and supervision is necessary for a child’s safety online. Parents should not assume that their child is protected by the regulation provided by online services. Unfortunately, there can be serious consequences to those who have been persuaded to give out personal information, like their name, passwords, phone number, or address, and especially those who may have agreed to meet someone in person. Other problems may arise when children access areas that are inappropriate, with information that promotes hate, violence, and pornography, misleading and intense advertising, or when children are invited to register for prizes in which they are asked to provide personal information to an unknown source. The hours children spend online is time lost from developing real social skills that cannot be learned from instant messaging. Christian parents should remember that communicating online does not prepare their children for real interpersonal relationships and should supervise and limit their children’s computer time.
Christian families also need to be aware of the problem of pornography, both online, and in other formats. Pornography addiction is becoming more and more common in today’s society, and not just men are being affected, but women and children are being trapped by its powerful talons as well. Viewers of pornography, tend to exaggerate the number of people who engage in uncommon sexual practices, and may be persuaded to participate in these activities because they are convinced that they are normal sexual practices. Many women have been coerced into participating in pornography, sometimes even against their will. Some males may use pornography to try to weaken their intimate partner’s resistance. Porn is often used to persuade a woman or even a child to engage in certain acts, to make those acts seem okay, and to weaken their resistance, refusal, or disclosure of these acts. This tactic manipulates women and children into so-called sex play, making them more vulnerable to further sex acts. Many are coerced and even forced into sex acts they do not want to participate in by men using porn. When they are shown these materials, they may feel more compelled to participate in unwanted sex acts that they are deceived into believing are somewhat normal.
Pornography distorts perceptions of sexuality by giving the impression that some rather uncommon sexual practices are more common than they actually are. Rape is often portrayed as a common practice in some porn films. The laws of social learning suggest that viewers of porn can begin to have arousal responses to images of violent sexual assaults by repeated association. Another social inhibition that is lost is the fear of disapproval from peers. Fear of being caught and convicted is an obvious example of a social inhibition. Porn influences some males to want to rape women; and weakens some male’s social inhibitions against acting out their desire to rape. Pornography plays a significant role in weakening male social inhibitions. The laws of social learning (for example, classical conditioning, habituation, and social modeling), apply to all forms of mass media, including pornography. Most behaviors modeled in porn subordinate and violate women. Often, masturbation during or after viewing a porn film reinforces the association. The youthfulness and susceptibility of some viewers make it more likely that they will copy sexist, degrading, and violent sexual behaviors. Pornography sexualizes male dominance over submissive women and children, eroticizing childhood sexual abuse and other forms of violent sexual behavior.
Many Christian women discover their husband’s addiction to pornography well into their marriage. Sometimes pornography addiction is so devastating to them, they all but give up on the marriage. But there is help out there for Christian families who are affected by pornography addiction. Several support groups are available for both the men and the women. Christian counselors can also help by providing an avenue for accountability to the addicted person. Some pastors may be experienced with this issue and may have other resources to help deal with it as well.
Part 7 Childhood Sexual Abuse as Related to Addictions
Reference: Addiction and Grace, Gerald G. May
- Announcing National BE AWARE: P*RN HARMS campaign today! (deaconforlife.blogspot.com)
- Internet Porn – Can It Be Addictive? (everydayhealth.com)
- Tennessee Proclaims it White Ribbons Against Pornography Week (prweb.com)