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Editor’s journey

Children and political talk shows

SPRINGFIELD, MO. — For years, parents expressed outrage over the violence and vulgarity that monopolizes television programming. In response, Congress instituted a television rating system that, unfortunately, some network executives have used as an excuse to push the boundaries of decency.

As the father of young girls, I’m alarmed by the immorality espoused on television. But I’m also disturbed by the hostile tone that permeates some of the news-related programming. Children are being exposed to political talk shows, for example, that serve up nightly doses of earsplitting debate. In turn, children mimic the angry tones that they hear on television.

Most adults view such programs as “harmless” educational entertainment. But, for children, these talk shows often sanction disrespect and name-calling.

Today some children spend more time each week listening to combative liberal and conservative talk show hosts than they do their pastor and Sunday School teacher. They hear “love your neighbor” from the pulpit and “yell at your enemy” from the television set. The pastor preaches kindness and compassion. Talk show hosts model anger and criticism. Children are left to sort out the mixed messages for themselves.

As a believer, I have a keen interest in cultural and political issues. But, seldom do I turn on political talk shows anymore because I don’t want my children watching me being entertained by hostile debate. And, I don’t want my house ringing with insults and accusation.

One evening, during a typical “shoutfest” on a well-known television program, my 11-year-old asked, “Dad, why are you watching this stuff? These people aren’t being very nice to each other.”

She was right — perhaps the program contained valuable information for an adult, but the tone was unsettling to a child. I determined that night to sacrifice the information for the sake of my children. I’m glad I did. Since then things have been a little quieter in the Donaldson home. And perhaps it’s my imagination, but the kids seem a little kinder too.

Hal Donaldson

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