VCR: Questions for Family Reflection


This article originally appeared in Issue# 42

Editor's Note: Although this exercise was created in the late 1980s when VCRs first came on the market, it's an exercise that can be applied to any emerging consumer technology — the Internet, DVD players, cell phones, wide-screen "entertainment centers;" there's always something new that can be the topic of this reflection/action exercise.

The videotape recorder has become almost as common place in our lives now as the television set. The following questions provide an opportunity to help families become aware of how it has influenced their family media habits. It's also a model exercise for using the Awareness / Analysis / Reflection / Action process to gain insight and evaluate whether or not to take any action to change media behavior. Use it as a "warm-up" exercise for a home/school meeting, for a family retreat afternoon or to introduce the idea of media literacy to any adult group.


    • When did we get our VCR?
    • What has happened since we got it? Who is using it? Who's not? Does anyone feel left out?


    • Who decides what to record, what tapes to rent and when to show them? What criteria do they use and how do they make the decision? Any conflicts about sharing the machine?
    • How much are we spending? Can we afford less? More?
    • If we were not watching videos, what would we be doing?


    • Is it right to create a home library of tapes by copying anything we want to? If not, what kind of rules should we set?
    • Is our VCR usage contributing to or detracting from our family relationships?
    • (For adults) Just because we can now have explicit movies in our home, does that mean we should?


    • What changes can we make to get the best out of our VCR?
    • Should we build a library of family tapes that will both entertain and inspire us?
    • What ways can we use it for positive interaction?
    • Can we contribute to creating a parish video library to make more positive entertainment available to all members of the parish?