A ZENIT DAILY DISPATCH
Media Management to Protect Your Family
Interview With Talk Show Host Teresa Tomeo
By Carrie Gress
DETROIT, Michigan, 11 MAY 2008 (ZENIT)
Catholic families are beginning to realize there is more to life than what the secular media promises, says a Catholic talk show host.
Teresa Tomeo has just published "Noise: How Our Media-saturated Culture Dominates Lives and Dismantles Families."
In this interview with ZENIT, Tomeo discusses her book and how families can guard against the effects of the ever-encroaching secular media.
Q: In your book, you discuss how the media is the most dominant force in American culture today. What do you think are the most damaging effects it has had on us morally and spiritually?
Tomeo: I think the biggest issue is with the overall desensitization of the Catholic culture and belief system. As one Catholic author said on my show recently, the culture has been forming our faith and not the other way around. Birth control, abortion, cohabitation, pre-marital sex, have all become the "norm" in society and most of the messages come from the entertainment media and the news media, which embrace and promote all of the above.
That combined with very poor catechesis over the past 40-50 years along with the sexual revolution has led to disaster. The good news is the Church has — and always has had — the answers in her teachings. And there are some real positive efforts such as a huge explosion in Catholic media that are making a big difference.
Many Catholics are coming home and realizing that the culture has been selling them a bill of goods and there is something more to life.
Q: What would your response be to someone who said you were overstating the case — that the media, including Internet, video games, etc. — is only harmless entertainment?
Tomeo: I would say they are in denial. Many people who make such statements don't want to take a close look at their own bad media habits such as too much time on the Internet or cell phone or too much time in front of the TV. I also hear this a lot from families as I travel across the United States speaking about this topic — families, namely parents — who don't want to take the time to stop and see what their children are up to.
It takes a lot of time and effort to become a media savvy family, but we all must do our part.
To give you an example of just what a media-obsessed culture we are, just nine days after the Pope left the United States the extremely violent video game "Grand Theft Auto Four; Liberty City" went on sale around the world. People were lined up for hours waiting to grab their copy. Now we find out the game has broken sales records — actually beaten the all-time entertainment record in sales. Six million people purchased the game in its first week on the store shelves.
The Pope mentioned the culture several times in his U.S. visit and in his address to bishops. He went so far as to say that we can't talk about protecting our children if we are not willing to take a look at the big picture, including easy access to pornography and media products that promote violence.
I would point to Madison Avenue and ask them why it exists if the media doesn't have an impact? Or how about the Super Bowl where companies spend millions and millions on 30- and 60-second commercials to reach a prime audience.
And then I would point them directly to the thousands of studies done by secular universities as well as professional organizations, such as the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Psychological Association and the American Medical Association, just to name a few, all of whom have been studying media influence for years.
Q: How are children affected by large doses of the media compared to adults?
Tomeo: The American Academy of Pediatrics issued a policy statement nine years ago saying "no TV for children under 2." They also recommend only two hours a day for young children. That's how concerned the AAP is about the impact media exposure has on children.
The medical experts say young children have a hard time separating what they see on TV from reality and it is also important, they explain, for their attention spans — not to be viewing a lot of fast-paced imagery that today's TV/mass media are loaded with.
Q: Your book makes a number of suggestions as to how parents can protect their children — and themselves — from the negative influences of media. What are some of these?
Tomeo: No. 1 on the list is to keep the TV and the computer in a central area of the home where the usage can be closely monitored. Leaving kids alone in their rooms with access to the Internet and to TV is a recipe for disaster.
Parents should also set guidelines and stick to them and make sure that meal times are media free — no TV, no iPods or cell phones allowed. Families should also take advantage of the many tools that are available, such as Internet filters and TV ratings, as well as helpful media activist groups such as the well-known Parents TV Council. Their Web site is a wealth of information for any parent or concerned citizen who wants to make a difference in their homes and the culture.
I would also recommend reading Pope Benedict's World Communications Day statements along with Pope John Paul II's message from World Communications Day 2004. There is a wealth of information and guidance to be found in these documents and, of course, in all the Catholic teachings on social communications.
Q: As a former broadcast journalist, you discuss the bias found in mainstream media. As average readers/listeners, how can we protect ourselves from the bias in important news stories, for example, when preparing to vote?
Tomeo: We need to consider the source. Research shows that at least 50% of those working in today's secular media are atheist or agnostic and only about 12% go to some type of church service. The majority of them also admit to supporting legalized abortion, as well as other actions that go directly against Church teaching.
While the media are supposed to be objective and balanced, that often is not the case. The media tend to preach instead of report by telling us in the way they cover stories that we need to believe a certain way — and that way is not the way of the Church.
So again, consider the source of the news story and then check everything against the Catechism and Scripture. Make sure you know what the Church actually teaches instead of what the media say it teaches. Read the U.S. bishops' recent document on "Faithful Citizenship." Also turn to orthodox Catholic sources for issues that concern Catholics and voting. There are a number of good Catholic Web sites available, such as Priests for Life, that can help Catholics in the voting process.
Q: Many people feel powerless when it comes to being able to effect change in what is broadcast. Are there ways that one person can make a difference?
Tomeo: Absolutely. Joining media activist groups is a great way to make a difference. Parents TV Council has over a million members now and not only informs its members on what's happening with the media but also is active with petition drives, awareness campaigns, and congressional efforts to raise media awareness and protect children and families.
Writing letters or sending e-mails to stations as well as writing letters to the editor is also very effective. The competition keeps getting stronger for all media outlets. They need every viewer, listener and newspaper reader. That's why every voice counts. And just like voting, one person can indeed make a difference.
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On the net:
"Noise: How Our Media-saturated Culture Dominates Lives and Dismantles Families": www.teresatomeo.com/store.htm#noise
This article has been selected from the ZENIT Daily Dispatch
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