There are so many different kinds of media and ways to get connected. Smartphones, tablets, computers, websites, texting, video games, t.v., social media, and even special kid’s tablets! Media is all around us and all around our kids every day.
My little daughter Elsie, loves – maybe is borderline obsessed, with Curious George. You just say Curious George and she goes running for the remote giggling and grinning from ear to ear and then stays glued to the t.v. — at 17 months old!
This is not a post about how all media is bad. Or that you should cut media completely out of your child’s life, because I certainly do not believe that. Curious George teaches some important values. Even though I doubt Elsie’s toddler mind is really grasping 100% that this show is teaching, I’m hoping that it is a good influence and that some of it will stay with her.
Like friendship, ingenuity, not giving up, cooperation with others, sharing, etc. I have to admit, I even like watching George with her! Even though the things that he does to get into trouble sometimes make me cringe, I’m hoping that as the episode plays out she is also learning NOT to be like George!
But let’s face it, there is a lot more than just Curious George out there influencing our kids. So how do we decide, what is good for our kids to be putting into their minds, and what shouldn’t be touched with a 50 foot pole? Especially for kids who are in elementary school – not just a toddler like Elsie.
I did a little research and discovered that Youth spend an average of seven hours or more per day using media, and “the vast majority of them have access to a bedroom television, computer, the Internet, a video-game console, and a cell phone… Recent evidence from the American Academy of Pediatrics raises concerns about media’s effects on aggression, sexual behavior, substance use, disordered eating, and academic difficulties.”(1)
Of course, this is for youth, but I imagine that the children’s numbers are probably not much different. One-third of young children have a television in their bedroom, as do two-thirds of pre-teens and teens. (2)
So this brings up the question, “What are God’s thoughts on entertainment? Although Jesus never said, ‘Thou shalt not listen to gangsta rap’ or ‘Thou shalt not watch PG-13 sleazefests,’ His Word offers guidance as to how we should monitor what influences us.” (3)
Proverbs 4:23 – Guard your heart above all else, for it is the source of life.
Psalm 101:3 – I won’t look at anything that is evil and call it good. I hate the acts of people who aren’t faithful to you. I won’t have anything to do with those things.
Romans 8: 5 – So don’t live under the control of sin. If you do, you will think about what sin wants. Live under the control of the Holy Spirit. If you do, you will think about what the Spirit wants. (See the whole passage – Romans 8:5-12
A while ago in Children’s Worship, I was asked by a child to play a song called, “Take Me To Church.” Title sounds innocent enough doesn’t it? Well I have the standard rule that I don’t play anything – any song, any video, anything – unless I have already screened it first. I am so glad I have this rule. What I found out about this song that was being played on pop radio stations is that it was worshipping sex, as do many other songs on the pop radio station I might add as well as commercials for adult products and men’s clubs. Point is, you’re getting stuff on the radio too.
I’m not advising that you leave civilization and join the Amish and cut out all media that could badly influence your kid. We do live here in the world and if we are going to accomplish Jesus’ mandate to go and make disciples of all nations, then we are going to encounter broken and sinful people. But should your children be inundated with sexual, violent, and crude behavior though? I don’t think so.
Here is some advice from Pediatrics & Child Health:
- Families should be encouraged to explore media together and discuss their educational value. Children should be encouraged to criticize and analyze what they see in the media. Parents can help children differentiate between fantasy and reality, particularly when it comes to sex, violence and advertising.
- No child should be allowed to have a television, computer or video game equipment in his or her bedroom. A central location is strongly advised with common access and common passwords.
- Television watching should be limited to less than 1 hr. to 2 hrs. per day. Families may want to consider more active and creative ways to spend time together.
- Older children should be offered an opportunity to make choices by planning the week’s viewing schedule in advance. Ideally, parents should supervise these choices and be good role models by making their own wise choices. Parents should explain why some programs are not suitable and praise children for making good and appropriate choices.
- Families should limit the use of television, computers or video games as a diversion, substitute teacher or electronic nanny. Parents should also ask alternative caregivers to maintain the same rules for media use in their absence. The rules in divorced parents’ households should be consistent. (4)