There has been a lot of talk recently, including at Pure Flix and on this blog, about the amount of time teens (specifically 13-18 year olds) spend consuming media. Also known as “screen time”, this upward trend is quite startling. And, according to a large-scale study conducted by Common Sense Media, nearly half of this screen time is conducted on mobile devices.[i] This statistic outpaces most projections, and here’s why: Of those teens surveyed, 67 percent possessed their own smartphone, while 37 percent had their own tablet. In other words, teens have continuous access to media content, anytime and anywhere. One additional statistic of particular interest for us was this: 34 percent of teens watched an online video every day.
Also included in screen time is the time teens spend on social networks. Let’s look at a short list of sites and apps popular with teens today: Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, Twitter, Tumblr, and Vine. All available at their fingertips.
Of course this poses great challenges for parents and pastors. We all know that media is influential and can be inappropriate by Christian standards, so the steady flow of media messaging into the lives of our teens is disconcerting to say the least. We also know that the wrong type of personal communication at this age can be devastating.
So how do we respond?
First of all, we need to be informed about what’s available and how it’s used. Obviously, what’s second nature to our teen’s generation is not necessarily second nature to ours! Let’s take time to learn the latest trends, or we will be left behind. And if we already feel left behind, we need to catch up!
Second, we need a plan. There was a time when we could just hand our kids a phone without much thought. Not anymore. Now we need to establish some ground rules, from appropriate apps and games (if allowed) to time restrictions.
Third, enable applicable parental controls. Just like there are parental controls for our television sets, there are effective tools and add-ons available for every platform to help us monitor and restrict our family’s mobile (and online) experience. For reviews and general information on available monitoring services and software, check out sites such as bewebsmart.com and focusonthefamily.com under the parenting section.
Fourth, provide approved entertainment. Teens today enjoy playing games, listening to music, and watching movies and shows on their mobile devices. We can offer these activities by doing some background research on available options. A few sites to help us stay up-to-date include pluggedin.focusonthefamily.com, and commonsensemedia.org. Also, don’t forget to check out Pure Flix Digital at www.pureflix.com for wholesome, video streaming entertainment.
As Christian parents and leaders, we need to be diligent and discerning about the family’s media exposure, especially the teens. Thankfully, excellent resources are available to help us educate others and ourselves on how to monitor our teens’ involvement and offer appropriate content, enabling them to enjoy their online and mobile experience…and stay safe.