September 08, 2009

Defeating the Media Monster Part 2

Written By Cary Schmidt

Media will eat your family alive unless you tell it not to!

In part one we uncovered five challenges that modern media brings into our lives and homes. To beat the challenges, tame this monster, and prepare your children to have discernment and wisdom, may I make the following suggestions:

1. Build healthy relationships committed to purity and godliness—this is the foundation. Teach your children biblical principles of holiness and honorable living, and engage their hearts with real and abundant time together.

2. Get on a media learning curve—Just like driving a car—first you learn, then you teach. The principle is the same with media. Simply—if you allow it, you must learn it. You can’t afford to have media outlets or gadgets in your home that you do not understand. For instance, you must know everything your child can do with his cell phone—and if you allow it, you must teach it as well (text messaging, etc.).

3. Train your children in the proper use of each media tool you allow—Again, like driving, you wouldn’t toss your sixteen-year-old the keys and say, “Go figure it out.” A learner’s permit requires that you ride along first, showing the way and correcting the mistakes. While this is annoying to the teen and harrowing to the parent—staying alive makes it ultimately “worth it.” Take the same approach to media. Get in the experience and teach and train along the way—correcting, instructing, and nurturing with biblical wisdom.

4. Set ground-rules, protected entry-points, and check points—teach your child the rules of the road, install filtering software, and grab that cell-phone and ipod periodically just to monitor how it’s being used. This is essential, and there is a wide variety of services (some for free) that help parents monitor their children as they use tools like email, instant messaging, online activity, cell-phone texts, etc. In addition to this take advantage of helpful resources like review sites that inform parents of the content of movies, TV shows, etc. Get informed and stay informed.

5. Be familiar with every form of media in your child’s life—trust nothing when it comes to media—not disney, not the family channel, and certainly not internet friends. Know what music they listen to, what books they read, what shows they watch, what people they follow, and what they post. Make no apology—for you cannot train up a child unless you are immersed in this world with them.

6. Provide clear and biblical boundaries and limitations—you may opt completely out of one form of media or another. You may restrict emails to a short list of people you know. You may limit access to only a few websites. You will definitely need to set time limits. I can’t answer all of the possible scenarios, but the Holy Spirit can guide you to set the right limits on the way your family uses these forms of media.

7. Provide healthy alternatives to media—help your kids stay in balance by practicing moderation (Philippians 4:5). Lead your children to read, play games, learn an instrument, play a sport, develop a hobby, or find interests that don’t involve screen-savers and tweets.

8. At times, just unplug on purpose—have times when media is just put away, turned off, unplugged, or even taken away. For instance, if you really want to get a feel for how powerful your child’s cell phone is, take it away for a few days and read the text messages that come in. If this creates world war three, then Houston, we have a problem. If your children can survive without these things and if they don’t mind you looking at their world of communications, that’s a good sign that they are learning appropriateness and moderation. If they freak out—then that’s a good sign you need to be a lot more involved in the “train up” stuff.

Media will eat your family alive unless you tell it not to. Parent, it is possible to tame the media and technological tools of our lives. Better yet, it is possible to use them for good and for God. I hope you desire, as I do, to train up the next generation to use media in a way that pleases the Lord and advances His purposes. Don’t let the media monster rampage through your home. Bring it into containment—tell it where to be, what to be, and how to be—and don’t ever back down, even for a second! God speed in your quest!

Note: Share your insight below and any ideas you might have in dealing with media challenges! Also, think of someone you know who could benefit from these thoughts and encourage them in this area!