On my way home from a graduation celebration over the weekend, I began thinking about all the things we want our kids to learn before they venture out on their own. In fact, one essential parenting goal is to equip our children to become capable and responsible adults when that moment arrives. But to get there successfully is no easy feat. It requires patience, perseverance, and consistency along with a lot of love, direction and prayer.
While parenting is a privilege, it’s also hard work. This means that we need an occasional break (especially in the summer months) to have time to do things like getting dinner on the table, or some other essential task where those little helping hands are not that…helpful.
With the many options available today across multiple streaming platforms (plus traditional cable), it’s easy to sit down, pick up the remote or tablet, and begin the search for something that seems interesting, and harmless, to watch. But unfortunately, not all is as it appears.
Ratings of movies and other shows do not always reflect the content accurately. The Parent’s Television Council, an organization that advocates for responsible entertainment, found that the current system has failed children for 20 years, making educating parents and petitioning for ratings reform one of their important missions. When children are younger, it’s easier for informed parents to control their family’s viewing content. However, those young ones will soon choose what to watch on their own, especially if they have access to wireless devices. This might happen earlier (and more often) than you think. In 2017, it was reported that 42% of kids age 8 had a tablet (that number was 1% in 2011), accumulating an average of 8 hours per day on media (Journal of Pediatrics). And this year (2018) 91% of teens will use a smartphone, averaging over 11 hours of screen time per day.
What do these stats tell us?
Well, parents, when your children begin to ask if they can watch a particular movie, TV show or YouTube video, don’t just respond “yes” or “no”. Make sure you communicate the “why”. It’s the “why” that trains your children to think through their media choices and develop media discernment. The conversation begins something like this:
“Yes, that’s a good choice, and here’s why…”
“No, that show isn’t one you should watch, and here’s why…”
Moms and Dads, for this approach to be successful, you have two things you must do to prepare for the conversation:
First, you must be aware of the program’s content and message your kids want to watch.
Second, you must know your “why”.
I have resources linked below to help you with the first task. But you need to discover the second one yourself because it’s based on personal conviction. However, Christian parents, I believe the Bible gives us direction in this area.
So keep on reading.
Finding Your Why
With our cultural conditioning, it’s easy to become desensitized to what surrounds us. Whether it’s on the Internet or TV, news articles or “entertainment”, sex and violence are a part of the daily conversation. And though we cannot avoid these topics entirely, we can certainly limit our diet of them.
When kids enter the picture, we tend to become more sensitized to things that didn’t bother us before. We begin to look at them through the eyes of a child. The warnings we hear start to have an impact. And, hopefully, we begin to consider our own media appetite.
If you are ready to define and/or clarify your convictions in this area, consider these scriptures (there are others, but I will offer you two):
Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life.
Proverbs 4:23 (NLT)
Not only must we guard our own heart, we are tasked by God to shape the hearts of our children for His glory. The heart is where our thoughts, feelings and attitudes reside. These will ultimately prompt our actions. Please make sure those seeds deposited through entertainment reflect your family values because at some point, they will become observable behavior.
And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing.
Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right,
and pure, and lovely, and admirable.
Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.
Philippians 4:8 (NLT)
The only true way to “fix your thoughts” on the pure, honorable and lovely is to engage regularly with the Word of God. It increases our discernment and keeps us sensitive to our surroundings. And by staying in the Word and modeling this to our kids, they will understand its value as a guide for life, here and for eternity.
Earlier, I promised resources to help you become familiar with various entertainment offerings. To keep it simple, I am sharing my Top 2 recommendations:
Plugged In offers a faith-based perspective on movies, video games, television shows and music. Great reviews on recent releases. Before purchasing a ticket or product, check out their analysis.
Another essential resource for parents concerned about what their kids want to watch (or are watching). The Parent Toolkit includes a weekly TV Guide for families that includes their own reviews and ratings, primetime TV recommendations, and even a schedule of “adult-themed” drug commercials so that you know when to turn off the television to avoid an awkward moment.
Of course, if you have additional suggestions, let me know so that we can share them with our readers.
May God bless you with wisdom as you seek His will for your family.
Franklin Santagate is the Executive Vice President of Marketing for Pure Flix, and works with denominations, ministries, and organizations by finding common vision, assets, resources and influence. From that position, we create initiatives we can do together that we cannot do apart, reaching our mutual objectives and expanding the Kingdom of God. To discover more or to become a Pure Flix Global Strategic Alliance partner go to http://pureflixalliance.com/join/.
To contact Franklin for speaking opportunities at churches and special events, email him directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.