What is “Quality Entertainment?”

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by Keith McCurdy

Just recently on New Year’s Eve, while playing Pictionary and Catch Phrase with family, I remembered a quote that I had heard some time ago:  “You can tell a lot about a culture by the quality of its entertainment.”  I have no idea where I heard it or who said it, but I think it is right on the money.  How we choose to entertain ourselves, tells us something about who we are or what is important to us.  So, what did you do to bring in the New Year?  Did you play games with family, watch football, and celebrate in a party atmosphere with flowing spirits?  It is an interesting notion that how we entertain matters.  Oh, New Year’s Eve is just a snapshot of our entertainment and probably not that accurate, but what we do daily may be a better indicator of how we relax and enjoy.  Or better yet, the things our culture offers may indicate what is important to us as a society.

Let’s take the average 10-13yr old.  What is their main source of entertainment?  Fifteen years ago the average kid that I worked with filled their time with television.  The ongoing battles with Mom and Dad about how much they could watch and when homework would be done was a regular occurrence in my office.  Today is a little different.  Yes, there are still the TV watchers, especially with satellite and cable, but other things have taken over the top spot.  The great consumers of time that are reported to me today are led greatly by video games.  Following those in close proximity are the likes of Facebook and reality TV.  Gone from the top spots is what our parents and grandparents would report.  No more hanging at the park, playing pickup baseball or basketball or just being outside in the neighborhood.  We live in the age of electronic intrusion.

Yes, there are many great advantages living in our modern society, but shear convenience does not in any way indicate that something is healthy.  An example of this is Facebook.  Let’s just say that I am not a fan.  To date, I have yet to have a parent or child give me any positive quality about Facebook that outweighs the negatives.  Don’t get me wrong, I ask all the time.  While I can agree that convenience of contact can be an advantage, the notion that this is a healthy endeavor for our children is absurd.  It is no wonder that a recent article I saw listed Facebook as the fastest growing trigger for extramarital affairs in our society.  Just because we make something easier, does not mean it is good.

Reality TV and video games I put in the same category.  This may seem strange but I can explain.  Both are filled with violence, foul language, and descriptions of people and society at their worst.  There are exceptions.  A few reality shows have a positive message and I believe stay on a positive tone, most do not.  There is also a vast difference between playing Wii sports and Call of Duty or Grand Theft Auto.  Both Reality TV and video games desensitize us.  When a 10 year old boy plays a POV (point of view) military style game that consistently has foul language, he gets used to it. The graphics are so life like that he gets to see the people he shoots and kills close up; what fun.  At first it shocks him a little bit.  After a little time, he no longer hears it as inappropriate.  He no longer sees the action as disturbing.  The subconscious message is that those words and images are OK.   When a 13 year old girl watches any number of relationship based reality shows, the language (that is what is occurring during all of the beeps), how women are treated and treat each other, and the sense of entitlement on display shape a very unhealthy view of what a young girl should look for in a relationship or how she should expect to be treated.

Here is an experiment.  Look at the video games that your children play.   You would be amazed how many parents either don’t know what the games are rated or just allow their kids to play anything.  Even the T rated games are filled with profanity.  Turn on the games and have the experience for yourself.  Next, sit down and watch what your kids are watching.  Listen to how people treat each other and listen to the words.  My experience is that most parents are unaware of what their kids are actually watching.  Now, there are many parents out there that are on top of this, I say “cheers” to them.  Most parents are not and yet need to be.  Regarding Facebook, remember I am not a fan, don’t let them have it.  Again, I cannot come up with a single reason for a child to have this unrestricted access to the outside world.  I even think it is a stretch for adults.

Not only does the quality of entertainment help to define a culture, it also may indicate the health of a family.  We have control over this.  What is the quality of your family’s entertainment?