Return of the Prodigal Son by Pompeo Batoni - 1773

Evolution for the Catholic Student

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Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Cleaning Up the Content: product review

Cleaning Up the Content: product review

          Here’s an interesting social experiment: find an old episode of Leave it to Beaver and watch it.  Then watch an episode of How I Met Your Mother.  Notice anything strange?  (Sadly, Leave it to Beaver is considered strange in 2012).  Both shows were / are on in prime time and immensely popular.  But though they were both made in America, they seem to be depicting completely different countries, or perhaps different planets.

          The point of this post is not actually to decry the corruption of our culture.  (Another time maybe.)  And it’s certainly not to cast aspersions on people who watch How I Met Your Mother.  The same is true for all shows these days.  I used to really enjoy Everybody Loves Raymond, but when I watch re-runs, the truth is sometimes I have to turn it off.  Even sports can pose problems sometimes, if not just the commercials.

          As a father, I have a serious duty to control the media that come into my home and infect my children.  The television is only one battlefield, of course, but at my kids’ ages it’s the primary one.  Also, as a Catholic, I have a serious responsibility to monitor what I take in as well.  Plenty of images, language, etc. are inappropriate for me as a grown man.

          The purpose of this post is to share a couple of tools that my family has found extremely helpful in fighting this battle in our home: the ClearPlay DVD player and the TV Guardian.  I am not employed in any way by either of these companies, so this is not a sales pitch, but I really appreciate what they do.

          The ClearPlay is a DVD player that edits DVDs.  You don’t need to buy special DVDs, just turn the filter on when you pop in one of yours.  The company has created filters for many DVDs and when you buy the player you receive a USB stick with the filters on it.  You also get a subscription to the service that allows you to download new subscriptions as they are created.

          The technology is wonderful.  It takes out bad language and inappropriate images or sexual content.  It also mitigates violence, which is great for watching wonderful movies like The Lord of the Rings that might otherwise be a bit too intense for the kids.  A word of caution, though, you may still want to preview a movie even with the filter.  Sometimes there are things left in a movie, or “adult topics” that are central to a plot that you may still not want your kids exposed to.  And you would need to decide whether the level of violence remaining is acceptable.  All in all, it’s a great product.  We have DVDs that would have ended up in the trash if not for our ClearPlay.

          Another piece of advice: when ordering, do it by phone and ask how long the free subscription to the service lasts.  Also, have them throw in the extended warranty.  They’ll do it for free and we have had to get players replaced for breaking in the past.  The extended warranty came in handy.

          The other product, the TV Guardian, is truly unique.  It edits language on DVDs, VHS tapes, and television programs.  The product uses the hidden closed captioning and when a targeted word appears, the sound goes mute and it gives you a brief, cleaned up, captioned version.  You can use multiple settings for how strict you want it to be.  Of course, it only works on things that are closed-captioned, but most shows are, and sometimes it doesn’t make perfect sense.  (My wife loves the Viagra commercials that advise men to be sure their hearts are healthy enough for hugs.)

          But the product is definitely worth it.  My biggest problem with television, etc. is that an otherwise appropriate show will flippantly throw the Lord’s Name around in vain.  With the TV Guardian I can still watch without having to listen to that.  It’s also a great message to my kids that there are certain things that aren’t appropriate.  It’s a natural way for them to learn about controlling content and appropriate language.  Of course, while watching EWTN I have to turn it off since it can make religious programs a challenge, constantly editing God’s Name.

          Obviously the ClearPlay DVD player and TV Guardian can’t turn your television into a fountain of purity, but they provide great services to a Christian home.  Hopefully men and women of faith will continue to use technology in ways that give God glory and protect the innocence of children.