Unlike any other age, this is a time filled with entertainment choices. That means it is all the more important for young people to have strong testimonies and a commitment to live so that the Holy Ghost can guide them to that which is wholesome. It means the same for adults, as well, particularly as they monitor how their children spend their time.
In generations past, parents in the United States could count on networks to monitor what came over television waves in compliance with federal guidelines. Recorded music came in formats that had to be conspicuously purchased at a record store and played on a player that could be heard by anyone in a room. Today, music can be downloaded as MP3 files, or in any of several other formats, and played on small personal players with earphones that make them inaudible to others standing nearby. Personal video players provide the same kind of privacy for viewing video files. Even literature can be downloaded and read discreetly on a hand-held device.
Choices are indeed personal, and wrong choices can be made without others knowing about it. And the choices we make say a lot about what we treasure and believe.
The prophet Joshua admonished people anciently to "choose you this day whom ye will serve," and added, "but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord" (Joshua 24:15). People manifest their answer to that challenge every day by the little choices they make.
Modern technology allows people many worthwhile choices. The Church makes conference talks and other uplifting things available to freely download on personal players. BYU Radio offers podcasts that take advantage of the latest technology to make a variety of programming easy to obtain. Because these are available over the Internet, they can be downloaded from almost anywhere in the world.
In addition, much uplifting music and programming is available legally, some for a nominal fee, from sources outside the Church.
But much of what is available from non-Church sources is harmful and destructive. Peddlers of pornography, for instance, try many deceptive ways to gain entrance into homes through computers. Law enforcement efforts worldwide are straining under the weight of child pornography cases, which led one federal prosecutor recently to tell The State in South Carolina, "The stuff you have to deal with is bad. There is no you just can't come up with enough intensifiers to say how bad some of this stuff is."
Even things broadcast over public airwaves now require considerable monitoring and care. A recent study by the Parents Television Council found more violence in children's programming than on shows for adults. Among other things, the study found that children's programming contains 0.62 instances per hour of sexual content and 0.56 instances of offensive language.
"We do realize that this is probably not a deliberate effort to undermine the social fabric of young children," L. Brent Bozell, president of the council, said in a press release. "But this thoughtlessness still produces the same end result."
The same can be said for many thoughtless entertainment choices among ordinary people.
Elder Richard G. Scott of the Quorum of the Twelve has encouraged people to make correct choices by obtaining and strengthening their own testimonies.
"A strong testimony has sustained prophets throughout the ages and fortified them to act with courage and determination in times of difficulty," he said during the October 2001 general conference. "A powerful testimony can do the same for you. As you fortify your own personal testimony, you will have power to make correct choices so that you can stand unwaveringly against the pressures of an increasingly vicious world. Your personal security and happiness depend upon the strength of your testimony, for it will guide your actions in times of trial or uncertainty." ("The Power of a Strong Testimony," Ensign, November 2001, 87.)
Parents should never abdicate their responsibility to monitor what their children see and hear as entertainment. More important, however, is to help children obtain testimonies and nurture the courage needed to make correct choices even when no one else can see them.