Window into a Foul World

    This summer, actress Candice Bergen of "Murphy Brown" fame made a startling admission. She said that Dan Quayle's famous criticism of her character giving birth to a fatherless child was "a perfectly intelligent speech about fathers not being dispensable, and nobody agreed with that more than I did" -- nice to admit it after the fact, but, of course, the damage was done. The number of single-parent homes continues to rise, and TV continues to negatively influence behavior. Keep this in mind as the new TV season is upon us. According to the Cincinnati Enquirer, this year's slate of TV programs will push the envelope even further than last year. One new show includes a scene in which a nun says, "Blow it out your [rear]," although she doesn't actually say "rear." Another show has a mother calling her son's teacher "a meddlesome little ___" and uses the B-word. The teacher, you see, suggested the son read more. George Carlin's list of seven words you can't say on TV is getting increasingly out of date. And more than just language, the teasers promise graphic sex. All of this is cause for alarm. Numerous studies show the impact of the messages promoted on TV on everyone from young kids up to the early twenties. In 1999, University of Michigan researcher L. Monique Ward reported that young women who view as little as twenty-two hours a month of prime-time TV are more likely to have a recreational view of sex than those who watched far less. A recent Kaiser Family Foundation study revealed that seventy-two percent of teens surveyed said that sexual behaviors on TV influenced the sexual behaviors of their peers "somewhat" or "a lot" -- though only twenty-two percent thought it influenced them. All of this makes one thing clear: When children and teens are exposed to sexually explicit programming, real harm is done. As Ralph DiClemente, an Emory University behavioral scientist, reminds us, kids can't filter explicit material through their worldview because they don't have one. Instead, he says, "this becomes one of the building blocks that they're going to put into their worldview, and that's what we don't want. It's a lot harder to change someone's views once they're established than it is to try to instill healthy views to start with." He is right. Christians need to attack the problem from both angles. As I've always maintained, the first line of defense for children is their parents. Spending time with our kids is essential to their development. And with this time you can talk to them about healthy sexuality. You can also help them turn the TV off. In addition, we have to work to change the culture, and that involves contacting the policeman of the public airwaves -- the Federal Communications Commission. In the past, the FCC has been notoriously negligent about enforcing decency standards. This indifference must stop. I urge you to watch some of these new shows -- without your kids, of course -- and record what you see. If just one percent of "BreakPoint" listeners contacted the FCC with complaints, the agency would be completely overwhelmed, and we would see changes. The time has come for action. Our children depend on us flexing our muscles of citizenship. If we won't work to protect our kids and their future, who will? Take action: To file complaints about obscenity and/or indecency on television, write: Federal Communications Commission, Enforcement Bureau, Investigations and Hearings Division, 445 12th Street, SW, Washington, D.C. 20554. For more information go to the FCC's information page regarding complaints of obscenity and indecency. For further reading: Michael and Diane Medved, Saving Childhood: Protecting Our Children from the National Assault on Innocence (HarperCollins, 1999). "Bergen: Dan Quayle Was Right about Murphy," FOX News, 11 July 2002. John Kiesewetter, "Fall prime-time will be (bleeping) different," Cincinnati Enquirer, 7 July 2002. Cheryl Wetzstein, "TV teaches college students casual sex is OK, study finds," Washington Times, 13 September 1999 (archived article: $1.95 to retrieve). L. M. Ward and R. Rivadeneyra, "Contributions of entertainment television to adolescents' sexual attitudes and expectations: The role of viewing amount versus viewer involvement," Journal of Sex Research 36, no. 3 (August 1999): 237-49. Dean Schabner, "Danger Zone? No Hard Data, But Plenty of Concern about How Kids React to Internet Porn,", 26 June 2002. Kaiser Family Foundation, "Survey on Teens, Sex and TV," 20 May 2002. Martha Kleder, "So, You Want to File a Broadcast Indecency Complaint?", CFI, 19 April 2002. Marilyn Gardner, "Speaking up, and speaking out, to let children be children," Christian Science Monitor, 31 July 2002.


Chuck Colson


  • Facebook Icon in Gold
  • Twitter Icon in Gold
  • LinkedIn Icon in Gold

Sign up for the Daily Commentary