Parenting: Asking The Right Questions
By Dr. Ted Baehr, Publisher
Most audiences, including teenagers, want to avoid messages that manipulate or desensitize their feelings.
A Los Angeles Times entertainment poll[i] found that 58 percent of boys and 74 percent of girls age 12 to 17 are offended by sexual material. Results from this poll[ii] showed that 80 percent of the parents surveyed did not think alcohol or marijuana were usually available at the parties their teenagers attended, but half of the teenagers who attended at least one party a month said alcohol, drugs or both were present.
Children want to make wise choices, but many parents are uninformed about how to provide appropriate support.
This chapter offers help to develop wisdom to enjoy entertainment while avoiding the pitfalls, through asking the right questions. These questions will penetrate the surface of the media by active viewing and listening, rather than simply absorbing messages without awareness of the potential influence of a subtle message. Conscientious thought is crucial to filtering seemingly innocuous world views that can shape our culture. The Christian worldview is seeing the world as it is seen by God, who so loved the world that He gave us his Word, his Son, so that “whosoever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16)
Describing the elephant
You may recall the analogy of blind men describing what they each perceived of an elephant, as one took hold of the trunk and another the tail. Yet another held one leg and declared “it’s like a tree.” While difficult to get our arms around the beast of mass media, what we’re viewing can be identified, compared, and contemplated to determine how to bridle it without harm.
Parents can stimulate children to ascertain, discern and reflect on the messages of the media. Through guided discussions, media literacy develops the capacity to enjoy a positive cultural experience. Applying the Word of God sets the hand of the Master on the situation and engages families in discussions which, in themselves, redeem time (cf. Eph 5:16.) Further, overcoming ungodly influences through recognition of biblical precepts magnifies the power of the Word of God. Ultimately time spent communicating biblical precepts uses God-given parental authority to lead our children in worship and spiritual growth.
Initially, parents must understand that they view entertainment differently than children. While parents are concerned over the amount of nudity and profanity, most children just watch the action and special effects. So parents and children must talk across a gap. A father might say to his son, “Did you hear those horrible lyrics?” The son might reply, “No, but did you hear the beat?” When a parent asks a younger child what a program was about, he or she may honestly respond, “I don’t know.” Though not always cognizant of message, the mind is open to receive messages that the media delivers. Often a child will mimic viewed behaviors, or unwittingly ask for advertised products. Where children’s minds are at stake, parents must ensure that biblical values enter the picture, so that intimidating, confusing, or shameful images are met with redemptive grace and dignity.
Media literacy is to teach your children to identify the elements that construct the messages to derive clear information and formulate their own well-informed responses to determine what the message means to them. The questions in the following articles may be useful to exercise the mind to reason together with parents regarding what is acceptable or objectionable material. By having children review and critique what they see and hear, they can choose appropriate movies, television, games, music, and mass media information, to become a media-literate audience, and to determine what affect the media has on their behavior. The process of becoming media literate involves three stages: Ascertainment, Discernment and Reflection. We will consider these in the next article.
**Editor’s Note: These articles are adapted from Dr. Ted Baehr’s THE CULTURE WISE FAMILY book. You can buy a copy from www.movieguide.org or on Amazon.
[i] Robin Abcarian and John Horn, “Underwhelmed by It All, For the 12-to-24 set, boredom is a recreational hazard” (Los Angeles Times, 08/07/06)
[ii] Los Angeles Times, 08/18/06