The old saying… “What Goes In… Must Come Out” is especially true for our kids. Media consumption for the average pre-teen is WAY UP, while parents available free time is WAY DOWN. The net result… our kids are absorbing thousands of hours of television, video and music each year without a parents protective presence to monitor what they watch and hear!
“We often note that children and teens spend more time with media than they do in any other activity except—possibly sleeping.In fact, the average time spent with screen media among 8- to 18-year-olds is more than twice the average amount of time spent in school each year (Sources; Common Sense Media.org 2012, Kaiser Family Foundation, 2010; National Center for Education Statistics, 2008).
Recent studies with Pediatric Psychologists and US Medical Universities, suggest the amount of pre-teen media consumption is up to 7.5 hours each day and trending higher! Such behaviors pose significant problems for pre-adolescent educators, pediatric health (Obesity) and attention deficit disorders !
For families of faith, we have an additional issue to consider… the development of a moral compass for our pre-teens. It’s a major problem confronting modern families who recognize we can’t just ‘ban” all electronic devices from our lives, in a futile attempt to avoid the dangers of media!
So what can concerned parents do?
1- Set some healthy boundaries; It’s your home, protect it as a ‘safe’ place for your family. Keep TV’s and wireless devices with unfettered access to the web and video in the common areas of your home. Family room, kitchen etc…. remove the opportunity for pre-teens to have ‘private’ viewing or gaming areas in your home. Be clear with the rules you have on what’s acceptable content for them. PG-13 / TV 14 – language – sexuality – violence… etc.
2- Watch and listen; Be familiar with what your child is reading, watching and listening to. Keep a running conversation with them about their favorite artists, TV shows and books. Make a point to watch movies with them, understand the ideas and themes that capture their attention.
3- Construct a Media Filter; Sit down regularly to watch popular movies, TV shows and videos with your pre-teen. As you do, take the time to gently point out where the false realities of video production edits exist; point out where directors create unrealistic life scenarios that seem to be ‘true. Comment on ‘half-truths’ and total fantasy, ask your pre-teen to start to notice the seemingly ‘perfect families, with ‘perfect complexions, hair and the latest in designer outfits all while living socially popular lives without the limitations of finances etc.
As tweens get better at ‘noticing’ the fake superficial stuff, dig a little deeper. Note the morality being portrayed as ‘normal”, point out the rationalization of sin and the subtle vilification of anyone who suggests a moral code of conduct in the story-line. In time, they will begin to catch on for themselves, and start to “FILTER” the lies and half-truths from the real.
The long-term goal of every parent is to help our kids navigate the transition from child to adult safely. As Christians, we also hope to transfer our faith and the basic truths behind our biblical heritage.
Helping our kids learn to sort through the mass of media they consume is an ESSENTIAL issue for modern parents to wrestle with and adapt to.
May God give us all extra wisdom and strength as we parent this generation into a new digital age!