Inspire, Spring 1994

Ther Are. A'Changsn , by J. Wesley Baker,Ph.D. Professor ofCommunication Arts SPRING 1994 W e're on the verge of a major change in the media. You can see hints of it in Vice President Gore's promotion_ of a national "information superhighway;',.., in the ads touting the features of "multimedia"computers,and in the announcements of mergers orjoint ventures between telecommunications and computer companies. Hang on, there's more to come!Within the next 12 to 18 months the first 150-channel cable system will be test marketed,a new Direct Broadcast Satellite service will be on the air, and the Federal Communications Commission will be announcing a new Advanced Television(ATV)system which will replace your current set with something which looks more like a movie screen. For those of us who are parents still struggling to deal with network television,the pace at which new information sources are coming into the home can be overwhelming.It's hard enough to set limits on the five over- the-air television stations we receive or the 30 cable channels to which we subscribe.How can we keep track of the programs our children are watching on 150 channel TVs,the increasingly realistic interactive games they are playing on multimedia systems,and the services they are accessing through computer networks? Although little research has been done on the effects of all these media,some ofthe suggestions on dealing with television are app4cab to th new media,as well. Limit the am• nto ime spent with the medhg.Wh ther 's s nt in the passive *win tele .sion an oduce or the invdlvin ,inte ctiv y of e new media, there•can be au of i es'ntin the "virtual,reality" s the mal screen. Not only can this ake ime way rom other more importa t act viti ,it c n also increase our is lati frdm th "real people" ardund s. tur media se needs to be evaluated fol owl g the bibl cal injunction to be"redeeming the time" (Eph.516,Col.4:5). Watch the content actively, seeking out the implicit messages. Ask yourself what is really being said in the media content— whether a television program or a video game—and attempt to respond from a biblical perspective.Take the time to consult the various guides to videos for rent,for example,to pick productions which present elements oftruth. Sources such as Ted Baehr's The Christian Family Guide to Movies & Video not only review the plots and messages ofa large number of movies on videotape, but also provide essays intended to help you become a critical viewer of the visual media. Participate with your children. One of the most important research findings of interest to parents is the discovery that any bad influence the media may have can be blunted by parents—when they take time to participate with the child. That means you should spend time with your children as they use the media to be able to reinforce any good lessons taught and to counteract any negative messages. Organize activities to replace the media,emphasizingfamily interaction. One writer suggests an "equal time rule"—for every half-hour of media use,equal time must be spent in another activity. That time should include reading together. As our culture becomes increasingly visual, it is important to maintain an emphasis on the written word. All ofthis means work on your part. But it will be worth the effort if it serves as a springboard for discussions which go to the very heart ofour Christian values. Even in the midstofrapid change,those values provide us with the stability we need. Alumni In MEDIA I