Post Author: Bill Pratt
The conventional wisdom these days is that what you do in your home is your business. If you have children, and you let them watch inappropriate TV shows or movies, then who am I to judge? After all, what you allow your kids to consume doesn’t affect me. Sometimes you’ll hear people say, “If you don’t like that movie or TV show, then don’t watch it. Change the channel.” You have your life and I have mine.
In the real world, however, everything you do in your home, and especially everything you let your kids do in your home, does affect me and my family. None of us lives on an island by ourselves. We are all interacting with other individuals in our community every day. The media that your kids consume influence how they think, talk, and otherwise behave.
Since my kids go to school with your kids, then how your kids behave is going to directly impact my kids every day of the school week. When your kids speak on the phone to my kids, they are influencing them. When your kids play with my kids on sports teams, they are influencing them.
All of us impact the people with whom we interact. C. S. Lewis uses the metaphor of ships in a fleet. As the ships sail in a tight formation toward their destination, it is imperative that each ship be in proper working order. If one ship is damaged and loses its steering mechanism, then it can accidentally run into other ships, causing them damage, and negatively affecting the entire fleet.
In the same way, each person is a ship in the fleet of our community. As we damage ourselves, we will end up damaging others around us. Living in a community gives me a reason to care about what your kids are watching. Ethicist Francis Beckwith elaborates on this point:
These [inappropriate TV] programs convey messages and create a moral climate that will affect others, especially children, in a way that is adverse to the public good. Hence, what troubles [concerned] citizens is that you and your children will not change the channel. Furthermore, it concerns these people that there is probably somewhere in America an unsupervised ten-year-old who is, on a consistent basis, watching late night HBO or listening to radio shock-jock Howard Stern. Most of these people fear that their ten-year-olds, who are not watching or listening to such programs, may have to interact socially with the unsupervised ten-year-old. Others, who may not have young children, are concerned for the declining moral health of their communities, which is sometimes manifested in an increasing level of rudeness, disrespect, incivility, crime, or verbal and physical violence.
Let me be the first to say that our household is not perfect; there is much we could do to improve our media consumption. My point is not to cast my family as completely innocent victims. My point is to make a case for why we should be concerned about how people in our community are raising their children. I am trying to raise awareness of the concept of the public good. We are all sailing in a fleet together.
If you aren’t concerned about the media’s effect on your children, then think about my children and change the channel.