Raising Children in a Media World

Media is everywhere. It is transforming, communal act. Media is the language in which our culture speaks, informs and attempts to understand the ever-changing world we find ourselves in.

Place a child into the mix, and things get a bit more complicated. People have been asking, and will continue to ask: How should my child engage the media? What is wrong or improper for children to view? At what age is it okay? Is it ever okay? How does my child become discerning.

The two prominent metaphors for media engagement are consumption and conversation. To me, consumption implies a passive, couch potato mentality. I will sit here and let the commercials and shows wash over me. This metaphor sees entertainment as the goal of all media. The second metaphor is conversation. This implies a relational stance toward media. The person and the media are on equal levels, and media is something to be engaged, wrestled, contemplated and critiqued. This metaphor sees art as the goal of all media.

On a whole, I think it is better to teach media as conversation, not consumption. In conversation with media, we ask: How does our worldview interact with a book, music or film? How do we engage with a piece of art? How do we tell if something is art or not?

When viewed as a conversation, media is not an adversary. Instead, media is a gift. Every person is all called to be creative and generative, whether you lay down brick or lay down tracks. This is so crucial to raising children in a media world, because unless a child understands that he or she is a creative being they will feel unworthy to engage culture and become a consumer. For that reason, it’s more important to teach critical engagement with a movie than it is to label certain media “safe for consumption” and certain media “bad or poisonous.” An example:

Harry Potter was largely dismissed as misguided or satanic by much of the evangelical world when it came out, yet it has a lot of Christian allegory in it and, if you take J.K. Rowling at her word, a broadly Christian worldview of justice and the defeat of death and evil.

On the flip side, the Twilight saga has been accepted by many evangelicals because it teaches abstinence. Yet, what does Twilight say about young girl’s sexuality, other than that a young women should find her worth in making men fight for her and that young women should use their virginity as a weapon or bargaining chip? (A great read on this is “Why Are You Apologizing For Bleeding?“

Media has always surrounded and saturated any culture; culture can only be built and conveyed through media. As Christians, living both within and outside of a culture, I think it is important to teach media discernment and disciple young adults in such a way that they can look at media critically and meaningfully. Over the next few weeks I want to look at the specifics of raising children in a constantly evolving media world.