Many of today's most popular youth and family programs include varying degrees of sexual promiscuity, profanity, coarse joking, and antifamily plots and subplots. Violence, materialism, inhumane, un-Islamic and anti-Islamic material are also found in a huge percentage of Hollywood's offerings on TV. Now more than ever, discretion is essential for parents to help their children achieve the best of this world and the best of Hereafter. Here are some options if "taqwa" is in your mind and heart.
1) Get Rid of Television:
No, it's not a radical idea. 73% parents, a survey says, would like to limit their children's TV. Hundreds and thousands of families are actually doing it. About 3 million homes in America have no TV. It saves time. Once you actually do it, believe me, you will not miss it. One father says (he works for Sound Vision) that his children got rid of TV when he was on a Sound Vision trip. It has been more than 16 months since. No one misses the thing at all. He hasn't heard any one asking for it. More family interaction, books, computers, and internet have taken up TV's place. TV has a lot of haram programming. Children on an average watch more than 27 hours of TV a week exposing themselves to hundreds of acts of sex and violence in our own homes each and every week! Is it worth it? If you cannot resist, then living without TV is better.
Think hard about this option, though. Both parents much agree first. If you have grown up children then it will be better if they are part of the decision making process. If they will go somewhere else to watch then it is better that they watch in your home.
2) Tune Out TV, Turn On the Computer:
More and more parents are discovering that computers are a good hook to get children out of the TV box. Most children already prefer computers over TV. If you still do not own a computer, buy one. A new powerful computer may be priced $1,000 or less now. A used one may be as cheap as $200. Now there are a number of computer programs available for Muslims which complement an ever-growing number of educational and entertainment products in the market which are halal and productive by any standard. Al-Qari, the world's first Islamic multimedia program, is helping Muslims of all ages learn how to properly read Arabic and recite the Quran from any PC or Macintosh.
3) Web Surfing is Better than Channel Surfing:
TV is passive. Web is interactive and more informative. Although web offerred its own set of challenges, it offers far better educational choices than TV. However, parents must filters to control access for children. According to PEW Research 53% parents already use filters on internet.
4) Encourage Islamic Programs:
There are organizations like Sound Vision which are developing Islamic programs for Muslim children on video and computers. The world is not about to abandon TV. TV itself is not bad. It is the programming which is by and large bad.
Children watch an average of more than 27 hours of TV a week, exposing themselves to hundreds of acts of sex and violence in our own homes each and every week! In a study of 450 sixth-graders who watch cable, Oklahoma State University professor Godfrey Ellis found that a staggering 66% of the children watched at least one program a month that contained nudity or heavy sexual content.
Where do children develop their weakened moral ideas? A substantial blame can be attributed to poorly managed television. A child may attend Sunday School for two hour a week, Masjid for two more hours, and never really hear about Allah's prohibitions regarding premarital sex. But when a child has unlimited access to the un-Islamic perspective at the rate of 25 to 30 hours per week, which ideas can we expect to have the most influence?
We cannot let millions of TV sets, thousands of satellites and TV stations broadcast an un-Islamic way of life, ideals, and images as the most charmful product of this civilization. Islam and Muslims have a responsibility to produce and promote a God-conscious way of life, ideals and images using all means of communications possible. You can help Islamic productions by purchasing them, by promoting them, by investing in them. By supporting the development of Islamic media organizations, we are in fact ensuring that succeeding generations remain connected to Islam.
5) Develop Your Islamic Programs:
With trillions of dollars being spent today on fiber optic networks, compression software and hardware and low orbiting satellites, the world will have a good size bandwidth available to them pretty soon. With communication technology becoming more digital, cheaper, faster, and more powerful, soon you will be able to produce a video and multimedia program on your own and broadcast it the way you publish a web page today. Who will use all these broad bands? Those who have programs available now will have an advantage. What about you and your family learning the art of production? Instead of being a passive consumer of haram programming become a producer of Islamic programs. You can do it as a profession or as a hobby. Either way, believe me, it is going to be fun, insha Allah.
6) Basketball is Better than TV:
Encourage games, gardening and exercises. Children who should be outdoors getting bruised, dirty, and exhausted, exercise only their blinking eyelids as they sit mesmerized, hour after hour, in front of the tube. Evidence indicates that television stifles the ability to express ideas logically. Television viewing replaces essential play activities with passivity rather than activity. A healthy and physically fit child will be able to achieve more in life than otherwise. That's why the Prophet, peace be upon him, encouraged sports and himself participated in them.
7) Go Camping Old Man!:
And take the young man with you. Outdoor activities are underrated among Muslims in North America. Hiking and camping are great ways to enjoy life and nature. There is whole healthy culture out there which Muslims in America, especially the immigrants, have yet to discover.
Outdoor family activities can provide good time for family interaction. This is something which TV takes away. According to one study, "the average five-year-old spends [only] 25 minutes a week in close interaction with his father [but] 25 hours a week in close interaction with the TV set." Whose values will this baby adopt? of the old man or of a punk in the tube?
8) DVD & VCR Alternatives:
DVD players and VCR give you control of TV time and program both. Many parents use more DVD & VCR than broadcast TV . Without a doubt, Islamic media alternatives are vital to our children's survival as Muslims. Sound Vision's Adam's World DVD series is a big hit with children ages 3 to 9 years. The series teaches Islamic akhlaq, adab and ahkaam in a manner that's fun for them to learn.
Some Muslims from South Asia think Indian films, and Middle Easterners think Egyptian films are relatively harmless. I think they are culturally more capable of encouraging you to haram ways than any other haram film which is culturally alien to you. Some parents think that cartoons are okay. No, they repeat all the rubbish which is out there in feature films. All the sex and violence is present there.
9) Visit a Masjid, Follow a Trail of Tears, or Visit the Old Country:
I was in a panel discussion with Abd alHay Moore, Uthman Hutchinson, and Zeba Siddiqui where we debated whether visiting parent's country of origin is a good idea for Muslim children in America. I would like my children to grow while knowing the good and bad of the Muslim Ummah. There is so much of the world out there for them to discover for themselves. Within the US you can follow some historical trail. What about the trail which native Americans (Cherokees) were forced to follow from the Western North Carolina to Oklahoma? And what about visiting one new masjid every month? The idea is that there shouldn't be idle time available to "kill watching TV."
10) Develop a TV Reduction Family Plan:
Develop a gradual plan to reduce your daily TV intake. You may want to start off by giving a Summer Break to TV this year.
11) Volunteer Time:
There is so much need in the society for volunteer time. There are many causes in the Muslim Ummah. There are human beings without homes and food. There are 30 million poor people in America. You can volunteer, along with your children, to aleviate the suffering. I always look with awe at those Christian missionaries who spend millions of hours (and dollars) helping those in need. There is more organized help from Christians to Muslims than Muslims to other human beings, or to themselves.
Once a friend went to help senior citizens in an area which has a large Muslim population for last twenty years, a beautiful masjid and two Muslim schools. People in that facility were shocked to see him. Their volunteer coordinator finally overcame her surprise and said, this is the first time in the history of our village that a Muslim has come to volunteer.
12) Write a Book:
What about encouraging your children to write a book with a promise that you will get it published. With desktop publishing around the block, why not let her become the first published author on the block.
Today television literally stands between you and your children. And some time it stands between you and Allah as well. TV addiction of parents is not limited to the parents in Matilda. It is the story of millions of homes across America. Unless you control yourself, there will be no barakah in you trying to control children. "Are you ordering people for right conduct while forgetting (to practice) it yourselves, even as you recite the Book? Will you not use your reason?" (Quran: 2:44)