Commercials: The Portal to Your Child’s Worldview

Your child may spend roughly 900 hours a year in a school classroom, but the average child will spend 2,500 hours in that same time frame being educated by some form of media. Which one do you think will have a greater impact? A recent article at New Philosopher states it succinctly, “media is by far the leading educator of children today.”

The piece “The three pillars of media education” paints a sad picture of the influence of television on children. The role of commercials in worldview formation is of particular note. As Neil Postman says in his book The End of Education, as quoted in the article, “the television commercial is the single most substantial source of values to which the young are exposed.”

The three pillars of commercial content discussed in the article are alcohol (1 in 5 commercials), sex, and murder. Consider the statistics they site:

The media’s standardised content does not discriminate between rich and poor, giving all children an equal start in life. For instance, by the time the average child finishes primary school they will have watched over 8,000 murders on television. By age 18, thanks to media school, a young adult will have witnessed 16,000 murders and 200,000 acts of violence. In addition to murders, another compulsory subject for children is sex. Two out of three television shows include sexual content, and over 58 per cent of youths aged 14 to 17 report having seen a pornographic website.

While this information is alarming we must do more than be merely alarmed. As parents, we should do something and the most obvious thing is to regulate the quantity and quality of media to which our children are exposed. Watching programming either without commercials or ones recorded in advance allowing commercials to be skipped is one approach.

But hiding them from media won’t work forever, though there is a time for guarding our children. We must also give them tools for when they do enjoy media — hopefully together in the context of the family. But we cannot always be with them, and oddly enough they have a knack for growing up. It’s our job to prepare them for future choices.

The last line of the article drives home a powerful point, “Today, all children major in these topics [alcohol, sex, and murder] – regardless of how their parents bring them up or how much of the family fortune is invested in school fees.” As Christians we have to recognize this isn’t entirely true. Or at least it doesn’t have to be. How we raise our children can and should make a difference.

But it is a good reminder that if we fail to regulate our children’s media intake the major focus of their informal education will be something far from the good, the true, and the beautiful.