Technology & Catholic Family Life…

I’ve often heard parents (and not just Catholic parents) expressing the view that the increased use of modern technology is detrimental to family life – especially television.  Yet, this report seems to say the opposite.

Do parents worry too much about the influence of TV and other modern forms of communication?  Is TV, mobile phones etc. really detrimental to family life – especially Catholic family life?

35 responses

  1. I think there’s always a danger to take things to the extreme. If mobile phones, computers and television are detrimental to family life per se, then so are books, musical instruments and other pass-times. I think it’s the overuse of these things that are detrimental. The context is so important here – I think it’s far too extreme to be dogmatic about this and go for outright bans.

    Of course television and the Internet can be detrimental, but I think they can also enrich family life. There are some excellent programmes available that are very educational. There are also some wholesome films and TV shows that allow a family to relax together.

    As for the Internet, well we all know the problems it contains. However, great good comes from the Internet too. How we use it is key.

    I think parents have a duty to keep a close eye over what their children watch and look at on the Internet. However, it is not helpful or necessary to ban modern technology altogether. I think that is extreme and there’s nothing extreme about authentic Catholicism. Parents should foster wholesome and appropriate use of modern technology.

    • Petrus,

      I also agree with your balanced view in this matter of modern technology. It’s worth noting that Pope Pius XII embraced modern technology when he had Marconi install a huge radio transmitter in the Vatican. That move was to prove crucial during the war when Vatican Radio became the main source of information in Europe for families concerned about loved ones who were missing in action.

      Like everything else in life, we must use these things carefully and with moderation. But use them we must, or else join the Amish and bring Christianity into disrepute as a weird anti-social sect.

  2. Petrus,

    I am so glad to read your balanced comment. I worry about some people I know who are into banning everything modern. I hate to say it, but it seems to be people who go to the old rite Mass who are fixated on this.

    I agree with you about keeping a close eye on what children watch on TV and internet, but banning them altogether will only make the children rebellious and might make them question a religion which is so intolerant.

    As long as the stuff watched is monitored and timed so that it doesn’t take over the family’s whole life, I think there is nothing to worry about.

  3. I agree that the balanced approach is best. Anything else will lead to resentment in the young. We should all use modern technology to the best of our ability without letting it dominate our lives or banning it altogether.

    Watching people sending texts every five minutes especially in company, it can be annoying but it’s here and it’s part of life, so no point fighting it.

  4. Petrus,

    So I’m growing this Amish beard for nothing?!?

    I wouldn’t say that – it’ll be a VAST improvement!

    And for the record, nobody’s ever going to take away my telly. I watched a film I’d taped ages ago, turned out to be a real weepie. I cried buckets of tears. Haven’t enjoyed myself so much in ages…

    • Surely that’s an abuse of TV, editor? A sad movie….sentimental rubbish. Talking of rubbish, I watched “Midsummer Murders” this afternoon. Gave me a taste of what it’s like to be an OAP….now I can relate to you much better, editor!

      • Petrus,

        You were asking about severance pay earlier – call into the office and collect it at 9.a.m.

        The sheer nerve of it. I praise his good looks (with an Amish beard of course) and he calls me an OAP.

        That’ll be the day! I’ll ALWAYS be a YAP.

        Er… I think!

      • Petrus,

        If you come to Mass wearing a black bowler hat and long black coat to match the beard, that will surely be the final straw!

        editor,

        And if you come to Mass wearing dark shades, I’ll know you were watching a weepie on Saturday night?

    • Seriously, I have often wished there was a Catholic equivalent of an Amish community. I always think it looks like an attractive way of life.

      Eileenanne

      • Sounds like you’ve got a vocation to the enclosed religious life, Eileenanne. And don’t worry if you’re married with children – they can always text you!

        ps isn’t it time you organised an avatar, Eileenanne? What about a picture of a monastery?!

  5. Athanasius,

    Nope – Saturdays I go pubbing and clubbing, remember?

    About technology; I do understand why some parents worry that their children and teenagers are too preoccupied with computers and smart phones. It’s difficult to get a teenager to see that it’s really not a good thing to be constantly texting friends – what about family time?

    Parents are in a no-win situation on this. If they manage to hold out and not buy these gadgets, they become the worst thing since before sliced bread, but if they give in and buy the technology, any “rules” they establish are likely to soon fall by the wayside

    Any tips, apart from beating and flogging the weans, will be of interest to the aunt of a whole gaggle of texters and googlers…

  6. I thought I’d mention that nearly always when I log in I get a message saying I cannot access the dashboard, but when I come to the thread, I see I am logged in and can comment.

    About mobile phones and teenagers, I doubt if there are any “tips” – at that age they can be very self willed no matter how well they’re brought up and I don’t seem many of them sticking to rules. . It’s a phase that I presume will pass as they grow up.

    The good thing is that young people can feel safe if they can contact parents at the press of a button, and these days that is no small thing. I think the good outweighs the bad. I’d be more concerned about them spending hours in front of a computer or a TV. I agree with the others that it’s all a question of balance and common sense. We should use modern technology but not be dominated by it.

  7. “Pope Pius XI, Vigilanti cura (#18), June 29, 1936: “The power of the cinema is due to the fact that it speaks through the medium of living images, which are assimilated with delight and without difficulty, even by those who are untrained and uneducated, and who would be incapable or unwilling to make the efforts of induction or deduction necessary in reasoning. For to read, or to listen to another reading aloud demands a certain concentration and mental effort; an effort which in the cinema is replaced by the delight of a continuous stream of living images presented to the eyes….These theatres, being like the school of life itself, have a greater influence in inciting men to virtue or vice than abstract reasoning.”

    The above quotation from a pope early in the twentieth century shows that cinema and television are not evil but can be used for either good or evil, for virtue or vice. If we use our powers of discernment and self control we can actually grow in virtue by refusing to watch bad films.

    I don’t think living in the past is ever a good idea. Catholics need to move on and use modern things were possible.

  8. The problem I have with mobile phones and kids is the health risk that is said to exist with these devices. It’s very controversial of course but there is an argument that mobile phone signals, especially during the dialing and receiving process, are highly dangerous to health. Mobile phone masts have also come under scrutiny in recent years, suspected of causing cancers.

    Industry experts naturally deny any links between mobile phones and cancer, but with so much money at stake I’m not so sure people can take their word for it.

    Let me just say that my brother and I ran a wee test of our own a number of years ago. We both had exactly the same mobile phones. He stood at one end of a 25ft room and I stood at the other end with a battery shaver in between situated on a table in the middle of the room. During the dial/receive process, the battery shaver started up all by itself. Now that’s worrying!

    The secret, then, is never to place a mobile phone at your ear when dialing or receiving a call. Hold it away from your ear (at an audible distance) until the call is established. Better still, use some method of hands free and try to keep the mobile away from your body as much as possible at all other times. If I understand the technology correctly, mobiles often do a signal search and this can cause the radio waves to shoot up to huge levels for a short time. That mobile phone doesn’t get hot against your ear for no reason!

  9. Athanasius,

    I didn’t know any of that, thank you. They talk about the health risks of using mobiles, but never explain it the way you have done. That is giving me second thoughts about mobiles and children and teenagers. To start so young is really asking for trouble.

    I also should clarify that I think it is very important to monitor what TV children watch. I just don’t approve of the people who don’t have TV at all. I know a few and least said soonest mended about them. I think most normal, well rounded people make good use of everything they can without going to extremes.

    • Jennifer,

      Yes, it does cast a new light on things. The only good thing about mobile phones and kids is the safety aspect. If they are in trouble of any kind then they can pull out the phone and ring someone for help. That is a very big plus.

      And as regards TV, well I think selective viewing is fine but it has to be said that TV programmes (and adverts) in general are becoming more and more degraded. The replacement of almost all wholesome-type family viewing with sex, violence and misery over the past decade or so cannot be accidental. I think we Catholics will soon be unable to put up a defence of any kind for TV viewing.

  10. Jennifer,

    “I just don’t approve of the people who don’t have TV at all.”

    I would be careful. This is about personal choice. I do not have a TV signal coming into my home. I have a television for watching DVDs, but not in the main sitting room. I do things this way because when I did have a TV signal I spent a lot of time watching idiotic soap operas. On a Sunday afternoon I found myself searching through channels looking for something to watch. I realised that this wasn’t the way I wanted to live and it was a bad example for my children. As well as all that I do not have room for a TV set with my piano, bookcase and pets!

    However, I do watch TV programmes on a laptop. BBC iPlayer is fantastic! I am not anti-TV, but for my personal circumstances, I choose not to have TV at home. As I said earlier, I think TV can be good. I suppose TV is morally neutral.

    What I do have a problem with is certain attitudes within the SSPX, sometimes promoted by the priests themselves. For example, the Third Order of the SSPX is only open to those who do not have TV. Crackers.

  11. Petrus,

    I understand what you say – your own situation is clear enough. I just wonder about how your children react when they hear friends at school talking about TV programmes and they can’t see them. Don’t you think they will eventually rebel (I am presuming they are still young and at home.)

  12. Jennifer,

    I , too, understand your thinking. A few points to consider:

    1. Peer pressure is never a justifiable reason for doing, or not doing, something.

    2. My children have limited time watching limited programmes on CBeebies iPlayer.

    3. My children are home schooled, so we don’t have the problem of peer pressure.

    As I said, I think there’s a lot of truth in what you say and I am not in favour of a ban on TV. I just think we should be wary of being too dogmatic and judgemental either way.

  13. From a wise old owl who has been there: We always had a T.V. set in the house but we never really watched any mainstream television. We did watch occasional videos, usually in winter and on a Sunday. A rather amusing incident once happened regarding our eldest son, then 4 years old. One day we were watching live Songs of Praise and he needed the toilet. He asked: “pause it as I need the toilet”. We tried to explain that live T.V. couldn’t be paused. He didn’t understand as he had never seen live T.V. and he had such a tantrum!

    Anyway, ours grew up with virtually no Television and they are none the worse for it. Even now they hardly ever watch it unless it’s the news or a good Bronte story. All in all, I think it is bad for children to grow up in a media culture but do agree that it can be used (on occasion) wisely.

    As for mobile phones: they have their uses but should be monitored and rules applied. In our house they are left in their rooms and never allowed at table etc. And, computers: all of ours are in the public domain as we don’t approve of the family being closeted in their respective rooms with gadgets. Anyway, the children prefer to be en famille and we play board games etc.

    • CrofterLady,

      I am impressed that your family leave their mobiles in their rooms when they go to table for meals. Yours sounds like a wonderful family, really “together” – have you any tips on how to achieve that? Most children seem to rebel if any rules are suggested especially rules restricting use of gadgets, so how did you do it? .

  14. We only have live TV during American football, baseball, and basketball games. All of our movies, shows and children’s shows are dvd or even VHS.

    We do believe that since we have the Sacred Heart enthroned in our home that He should be the center of attention. So we keep small portable televisions that we can move around.

    I’ve thought about the third order rule of no televisions and I think we could do it for a penance. Of course someone might have to go over to the neighbors to watch football! Hehe.

  15. As Lent of 2000 approached, Father suggested in his sermon that families consider turning off the TV as a suitable modern penance in keeping with the spirit of the anti-modern season. I asked the good lady wife what she thought of the suggestion; she said she never watched the TV anyway and wouldn’t miss it. I hedged my bet a bit and said I’d turn off the set as an experiment. The experiment is still going on.

    Which isn’t to say that I never see a TV show; I just don’t keep a box in the house. I suppose one could say that the time I spend on the computer and online – a necessity, given that I make web sites for a living – is fair exchange for the loss of the TV set. Perhaps. I am, nonetheless, out of the habit of habitual television watching.

    I don’t believe for a moment that watching TV has no effect; otherwise advertisers wouldn’t spend billions year after year influencing audiences to purchase their wares. The technology is fascinating; the shows that the technology serves up – as any secular modern who has also given up TV for aesthetic reasons will confirm – are seldom good fare.

    My own reasons for abstaining are not aesthetic, however. I was raised on MTV; today I generally try to minimize time I spend engaged with individuals or activities devoid of any reference to the Deity (the oldest habits die hard and all that). Outside a monastery such individuals and activities cannot be entirely avoided, but at least I can try to choose engagements that are more edifying with my recreational time.

    I make no effort to try to urge anyone to stop watching TV. I do point out that giving up the television set is not an indication of an imbalanced piety.

  16. Sean,

    I can understand exactly where you’re coming from. I suppose balance is the key here. It’s great if people can give up the TV completely, but not everyone can do this with ease. I’m thinking of old people, for example, who only have the TV for company and who certainly do not allow it to corrupt them. I also think it’s wrong to deprive children altogether of a bit of safe TV viewing, even if it is by DVD or VHS.

    I personally watch selective TV. I like to watch football, car restoration programmes and the like, or even a good sea movie. Ok, I like some sci-fi stuff as well, and maybe the odd fast-paced thriller, like the Bourne movies. But I also enjoy watching Laurel & Hardy and some good old fashioned slapstick comedy (not the Carry on films, I hasten to add). For me, this is a means of unwinding. There’s nothing wrong with some harmless recreation.

    It only becomes a problem when prayers and spiritual reading get neglected due to over-indulgence in TV viewing, especially if that over-indulgence becomes reckless to include unwholesome programmes and adverts. That’s when TV ceases to be a means of selective recreation and becomes a kind of Devil’s Tabernacle. As I say, it’s to do with balance, not to mention much prudence.

  17. When I speak of TV I have in mind not the device – there are people who say the machine itself is harmful – but the shows that are presented. Pretty much everything that is broadcast these days is secular to the core, thoroughly modernist and worldly, and devoid of spiritual considerations (though not devoid of assaults on religion and the things of God). Even when a show airs that is not directly harmful to an innocent soul, it is interrupted by advertisements that often are little more than a direct appeal to the passions. Tread lightly.

    • Sean,

      I think it’s a good idea to always tape films and documentaries in order to fast forward through the ads (and anything unsavoury in the film itself).

      Like books and everything else, discretion needs to be exercised, but I agree with those who shun the extreme view.

      It may be that there is an argument for the Third Orders to discourage members from watching TV etc, since (traditionally) the Religious Orders did not have TV or even radio. Essential news usually came from local people alerting the nuns/monks, although in the early part of the 20th century I think the Superiors would listen to radio news broadcasts. Now, of course, even the enclosed monasteries have TV for community use, albeit restricted.

      For laity living and working in the world, however, generally speaking, I think the balanced approach is best. I refuse, absolutely refuse, to renounce Murder She Wrote and life without Miss Marple would be impossible. Bad enough when Columbo died and there’s only the old re-runs of my all time favourite detective, but Miss Marple and Jessica Fletcher – you kidding me? That would be Lent all the year round. No way!

      • Editor,

        I agree. Also, it is one thing to discourage the watching of TV, but for it to be a deal breaker is too extreme for me. I think the Third Order of the SSPX insist on no TV at all.

  18. Sean,

    Yes, you do have a point there! My remote control gets regular exercise during the adverts. There is no doubting the dangers.

  19. I know this is not strictly on topic, not being about technology, but it IS about Catholic family life since the more Governments interfere in family life the harder it is for Catholic parents to bring up their children to both love and fear (healthily) God’s moral law. With that in mind, then, I urge everyone to sign this petition, against the Scottish Government’s proposal to appoint a named state guardian for every child – a totalitarian measure, no question about it. Click here to sign the petition

    On topic, one aspect of this issue has not been duly covered, so far, and brought to my attention my parents for whom it is a concern, is that just being physically present in a room together does not make a family “united” – the family in the blog introduction, while all in the same room, on the same sofa, are all doing their own (technological) thing. I even found myself recommending the online rosary to one mother who say that would mean her family turning away from their statue of Our Lady!

    What – she asked rhetorically, of course, again – am I LIKE?!

  20. Editor – this is a good idea for a thread and I think the recent tragic suicide of a girl who was bullied online, (a recent secular news item), is a great example of the dangers modern communications technology can pose to young (and all) people.

    In some ways, the internet is a good thing. Its like having an excellent reference library in your own home. And, of course, we can access the Catholic Truth webpage because of it!

    But in other ways, the internet is a horrible thing, as shown by the tragedy mentioned above.

    Certainly unregulated internet use is dangerous for children. They can be bullied by others, contacted by adults who would seek to abuse them, and access all manner of pornography.

    The pornography is the most acute aspect, as children are already at risk of bullying or abuse. The internet really represents a new medium for such, as opposed to a brand new threat. However, internet pornography makes a complete mockery of all secular laws designed to regulate it in traditional form (shop-bought magazines or films).

    Within seconds of sitting down at a PC, anyone can easily access pornographic material – for free – completely bypassing the supposed safeguards of are-restricted products. Free pornography is now so common that its actually difficult to believe at times that it is still a lucrative industry. Worse, material can be accessed which is actually illegal in the UK (e.g. violent or especially depraved material). A young teen could be freely looking at material online, which an adult would be prosecuted for buying or selling in a traditional transaction.

    Pornography is a particularly nasty vice, like a drug. Like all forms of liberal indulgence, it is a downward spiral. As users naturally become bored with existing types, then pornography naturally has to become increasingly more bizarre / odd / perverted in order to maintain interest.

    I would argue that, rather than the traditional depiction of bawdy/”naughty” – but supposedly harmless – material for consenting adults, pornography has become a kind of freak show, which the same type of appeal as the grisly videos of beheadings and executions which are posted online by the ghouls and monsters of this world.

    And, just as life becomes cheap to the desensitised eyes of those who watch such grisly videos, so too does human sexuality become distorted and confused for those who regularly indulge in internet pornography. The media has often commented on this latter phenomenon, which often manifests in the sense of young women being shocked by sexual demands which they think are depraved, but which young men think are normal*.

    (*A good comparison to this effect is how secular society has lost any idea of what fundamental human sexuality is, and many people seem to genuinely believe – absurdly – that two people of the same gender can actually have sex together. They cannot – what they do is not sex, which requires two partners to combine their sexual organs).

    All this is why I think the Government is right to be talking about some kind of new and sweeping internet controls. However, I would argue that such controls are at least 15 years too late.

    The exact same problems exist with mobile phones. But these also feature a another risk – cameras, which can capture and send images, and instances where private or humiliating pictures of an individual (often youngsters) have been placed online, in order to deliberately hurt or ridicule them, is by now an old story.

    So there are pros and cons to modern technology, but I think Petrus, Athanasius and others have hit the bulls-eye when they talk of moderate and responsible use of technology. If responsible habits can be taught to children early on, then any threat from technology is greatly reduced.

    You often hear that video games are damaging to youngsters, in that they can normalise violence. But I don’t buy that myself. I think even children can distinguish between a game and reality, especially when the game is on a computer or tv screen. I would argue that video games no more normalise violence than childs games of “cowboys and Indians” or “soldiers” do, played out with plastic rifles and vocal-imitation-gunfire.

    I occasionally enjoy video games myself, the strategy genre. I at times fancy myself as an armchair Rommel, or a Guderian. (Who said Franco?! :-P).

    Sorry for such a long post!

    • Gabriel Syme,

      No need to apologise for any of your posts – long or short, they are always excellent.

      I would, however, warn against trusting the Government when they speak of internet controls. If they were serious about curbing porn they would cease all sex education for children. The “porn problem” is just another excuse for them to keep an eye (literally) on us.

      I don’t trust politicians of whatever Party. End of. If the national culture were to frown upon impurity in all its forms, the “porn problem” would take care of itself, in my humble (but always expert) opinion…

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