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2003 PE Report

Americans find comfort in ‘nesting,’ but connecting is another matter (December 22, 2002)

Viewer discretion advised: Reality-based programs stoop to new low (December 15, 2002)

A/G among fastest growing faith groups (December 8, 2002)

Christians play crucial role in foster care (November 24, 2002)

A/G churches remember with outreaches (November 17, 2002)

Elderly face added woes from credit card debt (November 10, 2002)

PE Kidz News from BGMC (October 27, 2002)

Cyber-evangelists find innovative ways to share gospel (October 20, 2002)

Risks, stigma accompany wearing of tattoos (October 13, 2002)

Women lead on-campus ministries (September 29, 2002)

Tobacco, alcohol, gambling industries find underage Internet client base (September 22, 2002)

Marijuana, cocaine have abusive company: Ecstasy, meth and prescription painkillers (September 15, 2002)

September 11: A day that changed American Christians forever (September 8, 2002)

Congress, courts clash over Internet filtering issue (August 25, 2002)

People with disabilities bless churches (August 18, 2002)

Short-term youth binges can result in long-term habit (August 11, 2002)

Christians aim to preserve traditional marriage (July 28, 2002)

Payback time: Christian volunteers motivated to give back to community (July 21, 2002)

Urban training centers minister
to ever-growing population
(July 14, 2002)

E-mail rumors dupe multitudes, hurt credibility (June 30, 2002)

Not so innocent: PG-13 films increasingly push sex, language limits (June 23, 2002)

Skipping church: Why are some Americans staying home on Sunday? (June 16, 2002)

Fudge fellowship: Pastor's wife treats tavern clientele (June 9, 2002)

Persevering nomadic church finally reaches promised land (May 26, 2002)

Tragedy brings A/G church, community closer to God (May 19, 2002)

Couples find God's calling in adopting, raising children (May 12, 2002)

A/G chaplain ministers to women in maximum-security prison (April 28, 2002)

Youth center offers alternative to teens (April 21, 2002)

A week without television (April 14, 2002)

Technological know-how aids San Jose church outreach (March 31, 2002)

Cincinnati racial reconciliation brings inner peace to inner city (March 24, 2002)

District's fund-raising efforts aid pastors planting churches (March 17, 2002)

GED program an effective ministry (March 10, 2002)

Building relationshipis at heart of women's ministries outreach (February 24, 2002)

Single-minded devotion: Unmarried ranks offer ministry opportunities (February 17, 2002)

Bethany College honors black minister pioneer (February 10, 2002)

A/G quarterback wins Unitas Award (January 27, 2002)

Camp Melody plants song of love in boys' hearts (January 20, 2002)

Pastor breaks giving record after 10 days atop billboard (January 13, 2002)

2001 News Digest stories

2000 News Digest stories

A week without television

(April 14, 2002)

A decade ago, Edward and Susan Madrid of Aguanga, Calif., plopped down in front of the television set almost every night to watch three hours of shows. But as their young children grew older, the Madrids found the choice of acceptable programs dwindling for a family committed to Christian values. The family watched only three shows a week, but even then the commercials exposed the children to questionable material.

Bury the box: Teachers sponsor a project in which pupils receive colored strips of paper for every book read to cover up a TV set.

"There was nothing on anymore that was edifying," says Susan Madrid, 37. "Everything was either stupid or putting down the family, marriage or God."

In 1997, the Madrids, including their three girls — then ages 11, 7 and 2 — accepted the challenge of TV-Turnoff Week to give up watching for a week. Next week, the Washington, D.C., group is sponsoring its eighth annual turn off the set week, urging Americans to participate in screen-free alternative activities such as writing letters, taking walks, listening to music, tackling household repairs or, perhaps most importantly, talking to other people.

More than 70 national organizations are endorsing the organization’s TV-Turnoff Week, April 22-28. Since 1995, more than 24 million people have participated through schools, clubs and churches. In conjunction with the event, dozens of elementary school teachers are involved in a monthlong "More Reading, Less TV" challenge to spur pupils to put down the remote control and pick up books outside the classroom. At the end of four weeks, students celebrate their achievements with an ice cream party or some other fun activity.

"Rather than saying the junk on television is a problem that Congress or broadcasters can solve, we put the focus on individuals to get control of their lives," says Frank Vespe, 35, executive director of the TV-Turnoff Network.

No other habit undermines school performance the way excessive television watching does, Vespe says. He notes that multiple studies have indicted frequent tube gazing as a contributing factor to lower academic achievement, violent behavior and growing obesity in children. "Kids need to read, exercise and spend time with other people," Vespe says. "They need to experience real life."

Robert J. Thompson, Syracuse University communications professor at the Center for the Study of Popular Television, says examining something that has become a natural habit is in order. "It’s a good thing now and then to pay attention to anything that is part of our daily life so intimately and so invisibly," says Thompson, 42. "Trying to turn it off for a week lets you know what role television really plays in your life."

Nearly 99 percent of the U.S. population own TV sets. Studies indicate that children spend an average of three hours a day in front of the tube; for adults the daily average is four hours.

"I find people all the time who have turned off their TV sets and discovered they have children or a spouse in the house," says L. Brent Bozell, president of the Los Angeles-based Parents Television Council, which urges the TV industry to adopt more family-friendly entertainment. "A whole new life emerges as a result."

Television programming increasingly promotes "cultural sewage," according to Bozell, 46. "Every time I think the networks have gone as far as they can go, a new taboo falls," Bozell says. He cites January episodes of Fox’s Boston Public dealing with pedophilia and child pornography.

A PTC study released in January showed that cable shows on networks such as MTV and Comedy Central had a significantly higher rate of foul language and violence than series on broadcast networks.

Thompson concedes that swearing, violence and sexual situations are as prevalent as ever, largely because the traditional networks are trying to compete with racier cable shows such as The Sopranos and Sex and the City. He says more selective viewing is what’s required. Thompson argues that now there simultaneously are some of the best and worst programming in television history.

"I can turn on my digital cable box and go from the sacred to the profane, from the educational to the insipid, from the entertaining to the stupid in the flick of a dial," Thompson says. "There is a lot of wonderful programming that brings the world to us as never before. Without television, you miss out on part of being a citizen."

Bozell is disturbed by NBC’s "deplorable decision" in January to abandon family-oriented programming because traditional families "don’t have the upscale demos" required to make programming profitable. "That is a worldview that says the family audience is boorish and dull," Bozell says. "What the network is saying is, ‘We want hip 17-year-olds who don’t have any morals.’ "

A majority of American children — 54 percent — have a TV set in their bedroom. For children older than 7, Vespe says 95 percent of television watching is done alone and unsupervised. "If children are alone with the door closed parents don’t know what they’re watching," Vespe says. "Allowing a set in a child’s bedroom is essentially inviting a stranger into your house."

Vespe says he isn’t on a crusade to do away with television. "However, rather than being the default setting for what we do with our free time, it should just be one of many choices," he says.

Both Bozell and Thompson say ditching television completely would be a mistake. "What happens when an important news story or a nice movie is on?" Bozell asks. "Every once in a while deep in the bowels of television land there is good entertainment."

TV-Turnoff leader Vespe disagrees. "Folks who are TV-free are most often happy about their decision — and they don’t feel like they’re missing out," Vespe says. "The idea that folks who don’t watch TV are somehow out of the loop just doesn’t fly."

The Madrids likewise say life without television can be fulfilling. They found a week without television so refreshing they quit watching permanently. Now they play games, read together and have friends over to their home.

Susan Madrid, upon seeing commercials in February for the first time in five years when a friend invited the family over to watch the Super Bowl, realized they had made the right decision. "They all seemed so tactless and tasteless," she says. "Not being exposed to television has kept us more pure and focused on things that have more value."

— John W. Kennedy


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