Al Mohler on Children and Media

December 4, 2008

Al Mohler presents some research on children and media, and then makes a few suggestions… They’re very helpful. Even if you don’t agree with them in their entirety, they are very good food for thought. Parents cannot be passive in this area! Every Christian parent must give significant thought to how to best parent their children with regard to media – not just because of the various “dangers” of media, but because of the opportunities afforded by it to teach discernment, self-control, balance, etc…

Al Mohler writes:

“Parents should look to this new report with interest and concern.  The adverse effects of immersion in the media are now beyond refutation.  Does anyone really believe that all this media exposure has no ill effects on children and adolescents?

Christian parents come to this issue with deeper concerns.  Like other parents, we are rightly concerned about the dangers of obesity and other effects related to physical health and well being.  Beyond this, however, we must be concerned with the effects of media exposure on the soul.  Though perhaps impossible to measure by scientific study, we have good reason to be concerned that media immersion of this sort leads to a deadening of the soul and hinders the development of spiritual health and maturity.

Here are some suggestions parents might want to consider.

1.  Limit the total media exposure experienced by your children.  The statistic that the average child and adolescent is immersed in the media for 45 hours a week should be sufficient motivation for parents to hit the brakes and gain control of media exposure.  Access to entertainment media should be a privilege earned, not a right assumed by the child.

2.  Do not allow children and teenagers to have televisions and Internet-connected computers in the bedroom.  There is simply too much danger in unsupervised media exposure, and too much temptation in terms of both quantity and content.  No child needs a television in the bedroom, and a computer connected to the Internet is an invitation to disaster.

3.  Make entertainment media a family experience.  There is a massive difference in the experience of a child watching programming alone and that same child watching with a parent.  Parents should be in unquestioned control of media decisions.  Parents should also be eager to discuss what is seen with teenagers and children, helping them to grow in discernment and judgment.

4.  Parents have to do the hard work of actually knowing what their children and teenagers are watching, playing, hearing, and experiencing through media exposure.  No one said parenting was supposed to be easy.

5.  Realize that a revolution has taken place in the lives of children and adolescents.  The emergence of social media technologies means that children (and adolescents especially) now expect to be in constant communication with their peers.  This is not healthy, sane, or helpful.  All of us — children and teenagers included — need a break from this immersion.  Put a charging dock in the kitchen and confiscate cell phones as the kids come in the door.  That will send a message the old fashioned way — in person.

6.  Take a regular look at what your child is posting and what others are posting on his or her social media sites.  Look at the instant messaging exchanges and emails.  You are the parent, after all, and your child’s access to these technologies should come with the open and non-negotiable requirement that parents see it all.

7.  Remember that saying “no” is a legitimate option.  I do not believe that saying “no” is always the right response.  The media bring opportunities for good as well as for evil.  Children and teenagers who are never allowed access to media technologies and entertainment will emerge into adulthood with no powers of discernment.  But “no” is sometimes the best and only appropriate answer, and parents should always be ready to use it when needed.

Today’s generation of children and adolescents is, by all accounts, a generation immersed in media.  This new report reminds us that this exposure cannot come without real costs.  Let’s hope America’s parents are paying attention.”

To read the full article, click here.

~ Donovan

HT: Challies

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