During a typical in-flight neighborly conversation, a Frenchman sitting next to me protested, "Too many American made programs are being shown on French television." To a casual observer this may sound strange. After all, what is the difference between French and American television? True, the French consider the Americans 'uncultured', but the matter goes beyond culture.
The Frenchman argued that American television series were undermining their values and that the effect of American programs, which depict and glorify violence, would impact French society. Even when sharing common philosophical roots, people are concerned about preserving their own values. Imagine the situation when people approach life from very different perspectives.
The Islamic value system is rooted in the belief in One God, Allah, and the belief that the Qur'an is the revelation of Allah communicated through Prophet Muhammad (salla Allahu 'alayhi wa sallam). Muslims, also, believe in family values. This means no premarital sex; an abhorrence of violence and waste; no drugs, including alcohol; love for honesty and justice; respect for the rights of all; respect and caring for elders; and love for young ones.
Often, what has come to be popularly identified as the "Western value system" stands at odds with Islamic, and other faith-based, values. Popular culture in North America, including television, is overwhelmingly produced and controlled by those who believe and indeed enjoy popularizing what they believe is the "Western value system." This raises the question: are Muslim parents in North America aware of the challenge facing them?
Like all youth, Muslim children are, also, subliminally assimilated into the American society through one of the most powerful tools, television. Television with its overwhelming presence offers "processed thinking."
A parent's worst nightmare is a six year old to thirteen year old television addict who watches television in the morning before going to school; fixes himself/herself in front of the box as soon as he/she gets home in the afternoon; and has another dose in the evening. Today, electronic gadgets like DVD players have turned favorite shows and movies into an endlessly repeatable pastime. Computer and video games have added to the home box's allure. The popular 'Sesame Street' , nothing more than a highly amusing business filled with cute critters and special effects, offers a type of learning that consists solely of watching. A child may learn the alphabet, but will never learn to think. As a result of the indoctrination by television, children have little patience to pursue anything that requires a steady stream of thought or the linking of one thought with another. Television is potentially so addictive that it can undermine the child's imagination.
The passive experience, also, crowds out other, more active endeavors, such as congregational prayers at home, playing indoors and outdoors with family members, reading, etc. These traditional forms of interaction are most definitely not passive. They are all physically, mentally and spiritually active. A child watching television cannot simultaneously build a model or let his/her imagination soar with a good book. Instead, they are cut off from participation, imagination and the rest of the family. The child's facial expression is transformed; the jaw is relaxed and hangs open slightly, the tongue rests on the front teeth (if there are any) and eyes develop a glazed, vacuous look.
Television, also, reveals to children the "backstage" activities of adults, exposing them to behavior that adults have spent centuries trying to hide. The average child who watches television routinely sees adults hitting or killing each other or breaking down and crying. Revealing the "secrets" of adulthood has virtually destroyed the notion of childhood as a discrete period of innocence. There are now more adult-like children and more childlike adults!
RealVision, an initiative to raise awareness about television's impact on America, is a project of the Washington, DC TV-Turnoff Network. This year, its 10th annual TV-Turnoff Week was observed April 19-25, 2004. According to RealVision, an average child will have watched over 2,000 hours of television by the time he/she enters first grade and over 20,000 hours by the end of high school. This is more time than he/she will spend in a classroom. They will spend 28 hours a week watching television, more time than they spend doing any other single activity except sleeping. These 28 hours do not include time spent watching DVDs, videotapes, playing video games, or listening to records, audiotapes or CDs.
Research by RealVision has shown that prolonged television viewing by children is associated with more aggressive behavior (a.k.a. violence); excessive commercialism; sedentary lifestyles; and lack of creativity, patience, imagination, participation, and physical, mental and spiritual development. So who will correct it and how?
No institution plays a bigger role in shaping the attitudes of children than the family. The ultimate responsibility rests with the parents. It is necessary to strictly limit TV watching time and other electronic amusements and to continually monitor children's behavior. At the same time, the influence and impact of the short time they spend watching television should be counterbalanced with other healthy activities such as Qur'an, seerah, lessons in Islamic history, and other indoor/outdoor activities with the family. In this way, TV can be put into proper focus, if not completely out of the picture, Insha'Allah.
Talking with children, also, helps: 'Not to them, but with them'. Encourage them to share their thoughts and ideas and to think things through. Let them know that both logical reasoning and creative thought are wonderful accomplishments. Encourage children to read books and to consider their significance in the larger scheme of things. Avoid 'drilling' your children or forcing them to 'listen' to you. Rather, you should listen to them!!
Shakeel Syed, a freelance writer on sociopolitical issues, lives in California with his 4 pre-teen children in a TV-free home.
The beauty of this article lies in the depth of statistics provided and the solutions proffered as a way forward.
Thanks for the great article
of television on our minds, and children, may want to
visit this anti-TV web site:
Whether you agree with their perspective or not, it
offers some interesting links and information.
I see that some readers are trying to balance the
educational benefits of TV, against the negative
As an addition to my previous posting, I'd like to clarify
how my family handled this problem. We got our first
TV in 1963, two weeks before Pres. Kennedy was killed.
We were amazed to see him shot, and then watch his
funeral, simply by 'watching a box'. During the same
time period, I remember a TV show where a man was
flying a plane and it was going to crash. I cried,
thinking it was real, and wondered why no one would
help this man. I had to learn what was real or not real
on the TV. (By today's standards, these things may
seem naieve. But life was not always so dominated by
visual media.) My parents quickly realized that TV had
the ability to overly stimulate our minds. We would
watch some programs together as a family. After
homework and prayers, we could watch 1 hour alone,
like Star Trek or an animal/Nature show. But we spent
most of our time doing other things - going to the public
library, walking, doing projects to repair our house. On
summer evenings, our family would sit on chairs outside
and watch the sky grow dark. I still remember listening
to the adults talk, and looking up to watch the stars in
the sky. Sometimes a plane would fly over and I would
wonder where it was going, and I'd dream about
traveling some day. I can't remember the plots of TV
shows that I've watched, but I'll always remember
these times with my family.
- peace to all -
I have to applaud the writer's efforts for illuminating us on the bad effects of television which most of us already know to some extent. I agree that most American shows are vulgur and violent. Therefore, my siblings and I have a habit of changing the channel when something vulgur comes up. In this respect, I will say that parents have to teach children right from wrong and instill enough fear that they stay away from evil. I understand that this is very difficult in America so I will pray that Allah bless all parents with obedient children who stay away from the urges produced by Satan.
I have to admit that I watch a lot of TV. TV helps me learn things not found in newpapers such as Globe Trekker on PBS, Home remodeling shows, and graphic news, humorous shows etc. I love clean comedy that helps me forget the stress in my life and the violence around the world. Furthermore, TV connects me to my native culture, which I miss dearly, through movies. While watching TV, my family discusses the topics portrayed and analyze it from an Islamic perspective. Believe me, the television has enabled me to talk to my parents on a variety of subjects which usually don't cross my mind. From this respect, I will not blame the television that has opened up a new horizon for me and helped me get closer to Islam, ironically.
Alhamdu lillah for this awakening article.As muslims we've been told from the onset that the tv propagators and there likes will employ all methods at there disposal to make us waste our time.A muslims time should be used in acheiving endless bliss i.e paradise as is clearly depicted in one of the many verses of the glorious Quran that have similar meaning.
On the issue of the articcle writer living with his family in a TV free abode is a great acheivement.For those who cannot acheive such a feat,an alternative which is Islamically oriented (i.e programs) should be provided for the children.May ALLAH protect us from the many side attractions existing in our societies that will make us forget about our primary assignment on earth.AMEEN
As Salaamul Alaykum
Sis. Viola Gary of NJ
now living in France and I am too live in a TV-free home.
The Frenchman's comments are true, but many
French-made TV shows are just as stupid, I assure you.
(Big Dil, Sous le Soleil, etc.) I was told to watch TV for
language learning and to "better integrate into the
culture." HA! No real difference in content here, except
for the language -- there are cop shows with violence
(maybe a bit less than US) but lots of nudity, alcohol,
and senseless plots. A torrent of negative imagery and
depictions of evil and violence. I put my TV in basement
storage room. We spend our evenings reading books
(and visiting Islamicity of course! : ), enjoying walks in
Nature, talking with friends and meditiative prayer. TV
brainwashes people in every culture with wrong ways
of living and thinking. Children are especially
vulnerable, but adults must take care too. I work on
my French by listening to the radio, or better yet --
talking to other humans. Much better than sitting in
front of the 'demon box' like a senseless zombie!
Do I believe the French have culture?
Yes, I do. It does not mean that I like this culture.
I respect it. I have a culture of my own and I wish that this culture was to be protected by its people.
Do I believe the US Americans have culture?
No, I do not believe this for one moment.
I also do not respect any of their shortlived "Movements".
However I have respect for and I admire the technology of this Super Power, regardless from where the US stole most of its knowledge.
We only as every time have to go as far as the Quran, teaching us about different languages, different tribes, different cultures.
It is the diversity of life in general that is suffering all around the world.
Most of us demand assimilation by others living in our societies today.
This is the reason why Multiculturalism does not work very well.
I love to see diversity, differences, other countries and its cultures.
At the end I like to come back to my own.
It's called "HOME".
So, to explain to an American (US) how culture feels; the simple answer is: "Think of home" and the feeling of having been away from it a long time.
And of course, sitting and watching TV (couch potatoes) should be the last activity for our children. Outdoor/indoor activities within the family and religious community will be always more positive and more natural.
We have to wise up to all this, unite and follow the Sunnah of our Prophet in the way we provide and preach to ourselves and others, and most of all, don't rely too much on the world outside, but encourage ourselves to use our brains which Allah gave us. Most of all, consult Allah as the final authority if none crediable are found in this world. Children are human beings and sadly Muslims are following the kuffar in the way they talk to them like inferiors. They are our future as well - if humanity cannot see this what hope do we have in surviving and standing up to all the evil in the world that persists?
For each (such person) there are (angels) in succession, before and behind him: They guard him by command of Allah. Verily never will Allah change the condition of a people until they change it themselves (with their own souls). But when (once) Allah willeth a people's punishment, there can be no turning it back, nor will they find, besides Him, any to protect. (Qur'an 13:11)
To denigrate the American people for a _subculture_ who is poisoning our families minds as well as the rest of the world is irresponsible. To bring attention to the sick perversity in Media today and assist in changing peoples understanding of it or helping to eradicate it,is more responsible.
But completely ignoring this medium is not a very good idea. We need to be connected, we need to broaden our horizons and we need to be aware of what's going around us (even if that's violence- like law enforcement prog.)
It would be interesting to hear more from the author about his children's personality, given that he has a tv-free home. How do they react about common issues of discussion (non-serial)...their understanding of local and global society...Let us all strive for success
May Allah strengthen you all and bless you all. Peace be upon you.
One of Allah's servants
the reason i said 'i am indiffernt', is because i did not read the entire article. once i got to the paragraph where i thought the writer was going to the 'extreme' to make a point, i stopped reading. i do not believe extremes are needed to make a point...especially when the example 'does not' seem to be based in any real research, but just opinion. i am refering to the reference about 'sesame street' doing nothing more than teaching the alphabet and doing nothing to help a child learn to think, that it was only cute critters..etc. true, too much of even a good a program can be too much, however, sesame street is actually a valuable program for kids. have you actually watched it? have you done research on it? there is an assortment of problem solving skits where a child has to use logic to choose the correct answer. a child learns about grouping, what belongs in a group and what doesn't, deductive reasoning, friendships, ect. the show also explains different things about the world, different people, and different cultures.
anyways...my point is that it is a 'BIG TURN OFF', when any writer goes to the extreme to make a point...often using baselss statements. i have never liked those tactics. surely, your main points can be made without that sort of tactic.