- Kids Age 2 to Grade 6
- Middle/High School
- Info for Churches
- Awana International
The average 8- to 18-year-old spends 7.5 hours a day involved with electronic media.
This is nearly as much time as they sleep.
That was just one of the stunning results revealed in Albert Mohler’s blog post titled “’Like the Air They Breathe’ — The Online Life of Kids.”
Dr. Mohler’s blog is a wake-up call for parents about a growing concern in America: our kids’ out-of-control media consumption.
His final argument will especially hit home with you:
(A pediatrician) told The New York Times that we should accept media as a constant part of children’s environment.
This is advice Christian parents cannot follow.
We cannot simply accept that constant media saturation is now a fact of nature and a matter of constant need. These technologies and devices have their places. But the role of parents is to establish rules that protect children and teens from being dominated by technology and an army of digital devices.
Parents must find the courage and wisdom to know when to disconnect.
If you’re a parent or work with kids in this age range, you know that Dr. Mohler isn’t exaggerating. Electronic devices dominate teens’ lives and increasingly pre-teens, too. They’re addicted to technology that unfortunately exposes their minds to messages that likely run counter to what we teach them at home and church.
Here are a few of the sobering stats taken from the new nationwide study of 8- to 18-year-olds by the Kaiser Family Foundation:
Kids spend on average 7 1/2 hours each day using electronic media – music, TV, cell phones, text messaging, IM, e-mail, the Web, video games, etc.
Kids multitask to consume roughly 11 hours of media in that 7 1/2 hours. Cell phones enable them to be online at any time, even in bed. According to Kaiser, “Try waking a teenager in the morning, and the odds are good you’ll find a cell phone tucked under the pillow – the last thing they touch before falling asleep and the first thing they reach for upon waking.”
Two-thirds of 8- to 18-year-olds own a cell phone. Three-fourths own an iPod or other MP3 player. And most kids use their phones primarily as mobile media devices instead of as telephones.
The average American youth’s home features 3.8 TVs, 2.8 DVD or VCR players, one DVR, two computers, 2.3 console video game players and other electronic devices like radios and CD players.
Seven in 10 kids in this age range have a TV in their bedroom. One in two has a video game console. Three in 10 have their own laptop. Most have access to a computer with the Internet.
Dr. Mohler rightly observes, “There is no turning back from the digital revolution. It is not realistic for most families to declare a principled disconnection from electronic media and the digital world.”
But we must do something to protect our kids. They are becoming increasingly hooked on the drug of electronic media.
Media saturation can’t help but potentially harm our children spiritually, morally, emotionally, relationally and intellectually in a number of ways, such as:
1. Fractured relationships with family, the church and “live” friendships
2. Steady exposure to non-biblical values and viewpoints
3. Less time devoted to spiritual disciplines and academic studies
4. Loss of book reading habits
5. Inadequate sleep
6. Attention deficit.
The media monster is devouring many of our kids’ lives. As parents and church leaders, let’s do what we can to slay it.
What are you doing to give your kids boundaries around their media use?
“Talking to God may be losing out to Facebook.”
That’s what researcher David Kinnaman, president of the Barna Group, said in a recent social media study.
He added: “While there is still much vibrancy to teen spirituality, it seems to be ‘thinning out.’ Teenagers view religious involvement partly as a way to maintain their all-important relationships. Yet perhaps technology such as social networking is reconfiguring teens’ needs for relationships and continual connectivity, diminishing the role of certain spiritual forms of engagement in their lives.”
I hope Kinnaman’s statement never becomes true in any of our families. Teaching our kids to pray to a holy, living God is critical to their spiritual growth and certainly no match for Facebook.
Helping our kids engage with God
One of my former pastors, John Ortberg, taught a powerful series about experiencing God in the everyday routines of life. He wrote a book called An Ordinary Day with Jesus that encourages believers to notice the reality of God’s presence throughout the day.
He writes in the book:
“Christ entered our broken world to give us life in all its fullness. Not just in pinnacle experiences, but in every situation, every relationship, every activity. As you learn to recognize and welcome Christ’s presence into every moment, ordinary days become filled with a tangible sense of God’s presence. Suddenly, you are experiencing all of life with God–not just Sundays or “quiet times.” Even more, He is transforming you in the process. You begin to experience the kind of ongoing, close connection to God you’ve longed for.”
I’m trying to teach my girls this truth, especially as it relates to prayer. We don’t need to wait until meal time or Sunday service or bedtime to pray to God. We can talk with Him all day long.
Prayer is about communicating and relating to our living God. Just as personal relationships need communication to grow and thrive, so, too, does our relationship with God.
Teaching kids to pray
Here are a few ideas to help your children grow in their prayer life:
• Give your children people and things to pray for. Suggest that they pray for hurting or lonely people in your church. Volunteer at a nursing home or homeless shelter to help your kids actually see the prayer need. Praying for others will help develop empathy and a servant’s heart in your kids, too.
• Help your kids start a journal. Not only is journaling a good way for kids to keep their concentration during prayer, but it’s also a helpful resource to look back to months or years down the road to remember how God answered prayer.
• Talk with your kids about how God answers prayer. Be specific. Know what your kids are praying for and talk about what God is doing as a result. Show your kids that prayer is direct communication with a God who loves and cares for our every need.
What do you teach your kids about prayer?
Turn on the radio and you hear Katy Perry singing about kissing a girl and liking it. On TV, watch an unmarried new mom raise a baby on her own. Between innings of a baseball game, you’ll see a couple in separate bath tubs waiting for the right time.
Movies and the Internet pose a whole other set of issues. There’s really no escaping the influence of the media on our families.
As parents, how are we supposed to guard our kids from the flood of messages and images portrayed in the media?
We need to be aware and involved and teach them discernment.
Blogger Joshua Harris writes: “To discern is to perceive the true nature of something. Because the popular media so often speak to us through our emotions, we must grow in discernment. Otherwise, when violence comes disguised as justice, when lust masquerades as romance, or when greed and selfishness pose as success, we’re likely to be deceived.”
How can we help our children grow in discerning which activities honor God?
Harris offers these seven questions:
3. Is it enslaving? (1 Corinthians 6:12b)
4. Does it honor and glorify God? (1 Corinthians 10:31)
5. Does it promote the good of others? (1 Corinthians 10:33)
6. Does it cause anyone to stumble? (1 Corinthians 8:13)
7. Does it arise from a pure motive? (Jeremiah 17:9)
“Watch what comes into your house,” says Dennis Rainey, president of FamilyLife. “Someone needs to stand sentry at the media entrance to the family, carefully and prayerfully deciding what will be allowed in.”
The words of Psalm 101:2-3 apply well to media use:
I will be careful to lead a blameless life—
when will you come to me?
I will walk in my house
with blameless heart.
I will set before my eyes
no vile thing.
The deeds of faithless men I hate;
they will not cling to me.
Someday, our kids will move out of the house and make their own decisions. We need to help them develop discerning hearts while they are still in our care. Discernment grows from teaching “why” and not just “what.”
How do you teach your kids media discernment?
Have you ever found yourself in an awkward situation like this one?
My family was at the home of some friends visiting with a few families from our church. After dinner, our friends’ children asked their dad if they could watch a movie. He agreed and told them to pick out a DVD. The video they selected, “The Transformers,” was rated PG-13.
When I learned about their movie choice, I was faced with a dilemma. Should I “go with the flow” and let my 9-year-old daughters view this flick? Or should I uphold our family’s rule against PG-13 movies?
I knew what had to be done.
I went downstairs to a family room filled with kids waiting for the video to begin and respectfully told my friend, “I’m sorry, but my girls won’t be able to watch this movie. They can just play in the other room while the other kids watch.” Thankfully my friend understood and even asked his son to choose a different movie. The kids ended up watching a G-rated film I knew wasn’t objectionable.
I might’ve come off as Mr. Wet Blanket to the kids that night. But more important than the approval of my girls’ friends is my daughters’ moral and spiritual development.
That should be true for all Christian parents.
If our kids are to become modern-day Josephs, we should value our children’s growth in biblical worldview, faith and character over what’s popular in culture.
Of course, protecting our children from harmful content (the “garbage-in, garbage-out” principle) is only part of a parent’s job. But it’s still a vital responsibility.
We need to limit our children’s exposure to messages, images, values and attitudes that contradict biblical truth. We can’t and shouldn’t raise our kids in a bubble, and we should train them to discern right from wrong and to reject wrong on their own.
But along the way we have to filter out the good from the bad for them, too, while they’re young, vulnerable and unprepared to do this consistently on their own.
If we don’t protect our children’s hearts and minds, who will?
So, how can we vigilantly safeguard our kids when it’s easier to just go along with the crowd – especially when “the crowd” is our Christian peers? These three guidelines have helped me immensely:
1. Pray in the moment – and before those moments. Regularly ask God to equip you with the courage to look out for your kids’ welfare. You can do all things through Christ who gives you strength (Philippians 4:3), including speaking up in situations like the one I described earlier.
2. Take ownership of your role as your children’s defender. Your friends aren’t responsible for how your kids turn out. Neither is your church or your children’s teachers, Awana leaders or coaches. Deuteronomy 6:6-9 says you are. Don’t shrink from it; take pride in it. My kids’ Christian development matters to me. I want to do what it takes to instill lasting biblical faith in them. This mindset fuels my desire to protect them from negative influences.
3. Picture what you want your children to be like as adults. I believe God wants my girls to grow into Proverbs 31 women. Will watching a movie containing graphic violence, dozens of profanities and vulgarities and sexualized dialogue, clothing and situations help or hinder this goal? Seeing the big picture makes these decisions more clear-cut.
What do you do to safeguard your kids morally and spiritually?
You are currently browsing the archives for the Media choices category.