What if you knew a way to limit the probability that your teenager would become pregnant? Wouldn’t you make whatever changes were necessary to help your child avoid an unplanned pregnancy? Wouldn’t almost any change be worth it? Change” is the word that took the election by storm. We have been hearing a lot about change. If you’re the parent of an infant, the word “change” reminds you of a diaper – as in, “That needs to be changed.”
Many times change refers to something bad that needs to be corrected. This month America’s new “leader of change” will take residence in the White House. Then it’s back to business as usual for us so the White House can usher in change. The problem is America won’t be changed by the White House. America must be changed by your house and my house. Real long-term change cannot be mandated. Change that will last is change that is trained, and it must be done by the family that is raising tomorrow’s change agents.
It is time for change. It’s time for each parent and grandparent to look at what we have settled for … what we have said yes to. We need to take a look at what we’ve endorsed, without realizing it. As we ended this past year, the RAND Corporation presented their new study on the impact of indiscriminate television watching on the sexual behaviors of our children. First, it needs to be said that the RAND Corporation is a non-sectarian research group. They have no particular bias. Their findings validate what we can already guess. Teens who watch television soap operas and sitcoms with sexual content are twice as likely to be involved in a pregnancy as teens whose parents limit their viewing habits. That needs to be repeated. Teens that watch these types of television shows are twice as likely to become pregnant.
So what’s the answer? It is definitely time for a change. But that change needs to take place in your house. It’s time for parents to change that diaper … or channel, as it were. For starters, I would never let my children invite a stranger into their bedroom to talk to them. Nor should I let them have a television in their bedroom. Let’s use our brains. Our teens are still very impressionable. Repeated input from script writers who couldn’t care less about the character development of our children will obviously have a lasting impact. Research validates that. Logic validates that. Scripture validates that. “Guard your heart,” it says in Proverbs, for the things you let lodge in your heart will spring into action in your life (Proverbs 4:23). A child (and probably not even an adult) can not watch television that continually promotes sex out of marriage and not be impacted. That’s research. That’s a fact.
It’s time to say “No!” to these kinds of shows being viewed on the family television. For the sake of our teens, it’s time to announce that those kinds of television shows are beneath our viewing line. We draw a line as to what we will watch, and sexual content is below that line. “But Mom,” you will hear in protest, “Everyone else at school watches that!” The parental response ought to be, “But we’re not everyone else. I have much higher aspirations for you than average … to be just like everyone else. As for me and my house we will serve the Lord … with our viewing habits” (Joshua 24). Hearing your child complain because she can’t watch those shows is certainly much less painful than hearing your child say she is pregnant.
Recently, I conducted a child-rearing seminar. At the end, one mother challenged what I had said. “I hate to deny my teen these things that other teens get to do!” she said. “I don’t think it’s right. After all, it is the real world, isn’t it?” First of all, American teens aren’t being denied anything worth having, with the exception perhaps of necessary boundaries. But I did tell that mom that I did indeed want to deny my children some of the things other American children have. Things like sexually transmitted diseases, emotional trauma and a life outside of the plans God has for them. Yes, if, as a parent, I can help deny them anything harmful, I’m all for it. In fact, as a parent, I’m responsible to attempt it!
It is time for change. But that change needs to take place in the minds of American parents. Then in the television viewing habits of the American household. We’ve gotten too desensitized to the “dirty diapers” coming over the airway. It’s time to change, and change must start in our house – not the White House.
Dr. Robert Barnes is the president of Sheridan House Family Ministries. He and his wife, Rosemary, are authors and speakers on marriage and family issues.