The Need for Media Awareness
Written by Corrie Neven
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Reformed Practice - Technology

The Secular Media

Each day the media bombards us with themes of sexuality, crime, violence, profanity, pride, greed, and hatred. In the last century, media has undergone a major revolution in form and content. With the rise of technology and the accessibility of high tech gadgets, we have become an on-demand, consumption driven society. Along with the increasing accessibility to information and entertainment, comes a vast array of problems. Even secular society is alarmed by matters related to the media choices of our culture; problems such as a dramatic increase in violent and immoral behavior among teens, obesity linked to inactivity, unhealthy body images and the list goes on. The Kaiser Family Foundation performed a media survey among children and teens. This non-profit foundation focuses on major health care issues facing the nation and serves as an independent voice for policymakers, the media, the health care community, and the general public. The summary findings of the survey reveal that:

Children and teens are spending an increasing amount of time using “new media” like computers, the Internet and video games, without cutting back on the time they spend with “old” media like TV, print and music. Instead, because of the amount of time they spend using more than one medium at a time (for example, going online while watching TV), they’re managing to pack increasing amounts of media content into the same amount of time each day.1

So the question looms, are we as members of the Christian community with children attending a Christian institution, immune to the threats presented by movies, the Internet, video games, T.V. shows and popular literature? Indisputably no, and it would be naïve and foolish to believe that the temptations of the world are not affecting our children. Just as an athlete can be seduced by junk food, good kids from Bible-believing homes can be tempted by entertainment that does not honour God and worse yet, glamourizes what is evil and base. The greatest danger of all is how our minds are held captive by what we see, read and hear and we slowly become immune or desensitized to what we and our children are bombarded with. Clearly, entertainment choices are an area of growing concern and the Education Committee felt it pertinent to highlight some of these concerns, as well as to offer some guidelines.

Parental Guidance

As parents, it is our responsibility to educate our children. We have promised to “raise them in the fear and admonition of the Lord.” Part of this responsibility requires that we monitor the media they come into contact with and direct them towards edifying choices. Routinely ask yourself: What are my children watching, listening to, playing and reading? There is a danger both in being too lenient and too strict. In both instances, we fail to provide our children with the proper tools of discernment. Not only do children need to know what is and isn’t acceptable, but they need to know why. Establishing and enforcing a set of rules is insufficient, if we are not forcing our children to ask what scriptural principles come into play (Psalm 101:3a: “I will set no wicked thing before mine eyes.”). By themselves, rules often result in adolescent rebellion, as teens are attracted to what is forbidden.

As parents, use the resources at hand to assist you in your own discernment and likewise encourage your children. Focus on the Family has an excellent website which provides reviews of television shows, movies, music etc.  This site is www.pluggedinonline.com and http://www.almenconi.com is also extremely helpful, with info on video games and other media. The mission statement for the Focus on the Family site serves as an excellent overview of how Christians should approach the issue of media:

We need to equip “parents, youth leaders, ministers and teens with the essential tools that will enable them to understand, navigate and impact the culture in which they live. Entertainment is a potent influence on our culture for both good and evil. Through our reviews and discussions of that entertainment, we hope to spark intellectual thought, family discussion, spiritual growth and a strong desire to follow the command of Colossians 2:8, “Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.”2

Popular Entertainment

In the following few paragraphs, this article highlights some prominent entertainment choices currently available:

Consider the popular video game “Grand Theft Auto” While the title might raise some concerns about the glorification of theft, the review provided on the Al Meconi Ministry site, illustrates the extreme extent to which violence and immorality dominate the game:

Grand Theft Auto Vice City is one of the most popular games out today and also one of the vilest I have ever played. Many games out today contain a great deal of violence and some language. Vice City has an above average amount of language, but what really contrasts it with other games is the blatant sexual content/nudity, which is the most I have ever seen in any game I have played. It is for all these reasons that I can’t recommend this game for anyone. Grand Theft Auto Vice City receives an 18% (F-)for an extreme amount of violence with blood, a multitude of profanities, and many sexual comments, actions and nudity.3

The most popular video games often involve shooting and war related activities such as “Call of Duty.” What is the harm in these you may ask?

The latest brain research shows that violent games activate the anger center of the teenage brain while dampening the brain’s “conscience.” It’s not that every teen that plays an ultra violent game is going to go out and pick up an Uzi. The real impact is more subtle. The worst effect of M-rated games is the culture of disrespect they create. Whoever tells the stories defines the culture. What do we think the effect is when our kids’ storytellers are violence simulators that glorify gang culture, celebrate brutality, lionize crudeness, and trivialize violence toward women? 4

The title of the nation’s hottest single “Promiscuous” by Nelly Furtado, requires very little imagination to decipher its primary content .The album “ Loose” to which this single belongs, is little more than a compilation of songs glorifying sexual immorality. Dangerous from another angle, is work by such “artists” as Eminem, whose lyrics are filled with the vilest of obscenities, extreme violence, including violence against his parents, the government and even a pregnant woman. Drugs are glamorized, sex is trivialized, and elsewhere, he claims to have sold out to the devil and brags about influencing young fans. Groups such as Nirvana and Pearl Jam vocalize the alienation and anger felt by some of today’s youth, promoting destructive behaviors. Behind the earplugs of their MP3 players, what are your children listening to?

Print media also provides countless threats, especially magazines such as Teen and Seventeen geared to impressionable girls aged 12 to 17. These magazines are largely dominated with ads promoting sexuality and unattainable beauty and body images. The recent popularity of the Da Vinci Code also reminds us to be on guard to literature that challenges our faith system in more subtle but equally dangerous manners.

While television has recently been dominated by reality shows, programs such THE O.C and Scrubs are very popular among the teen and twenty-something crowd. Christian reviews of The O.C report that the series exults in teenage sensuality and alcohol abuse. Most parties are beer and brawl filled bashes populated with barely clothed girls. This drama’s negative content lures teens in the wrong direction. Christians should also dispose of Scrubs, a show filled with gross- out humor, sexual misconduct, profanity and alcohol abuse. It is these elements, rather than true to form medical drama, which dominate.

The current movie blockbuster changes weekly, with most having language and content in opposition to biblical standards. For a quick reference point, we have chosen the movie Marine that is currently in theatres with an industry rating of PG-13. Initially, the plot of rescuing a kidnapped wife may seem creditable; however, the celebration of foul language, illicit sex and violence are not excusable. Considering profane and crude language alone: God’s name is misused a half-dozen times and there are 34 other profanities.5

Internet—The Most Dangerous

The Internet has undoubtedly changed the way many of us do business, communicate with others and obtain information. Few of us could imagine life without this tool of convenience, and yet it is perhaps the most dangerous of all the media choices available. The October 30th issue of Macleans magazine featured a lengthy article discussing the Internet and its failure to live up to its original hype. More to the point however, the article emphasizes that while the Internet was originally envisioned to be “an interactive sea of knowledge...the public at large saw an invitation to indulge vice on an unimaginable scale.”6 The worst evils imaginable, from pornography, gambling, terrorism, plagiarism etc. dominate. The article points out that “If you lived in a neighbourhood where your child had a better than one–in-10 chance of being sexually propositioned on the street, you’d probably move.”7 However spending extensive time on the Internet presents those same odds to your children.

Should we dismiss the Internet, remove it from our homes? Not necessarily, rather we should use it wisely and selectively. Our computers should be in full view within our homes and as parents, we should regularly check back through the history log of Internet use, to monitor the Internet choices made within the home. There are also several parental control packages/devices on the market, enabling parents to determine the type of Internet usage that is appropriate.

Christian Principles

Obviously, these samples just scratch the surface of the negative entertainment choices available. The intent of this article was simply to highlight the need to be aware of and to practice and teach discernment. Titles alone are often not enough to provide a true reflection. We all need to think critically and christianly about popular culture.

Follow some very basic principles such as having your media devices in a “family” room. This reduces temptations for children and adults alike and also makes it easier to implement guidelines. In connection with that, research has also recommended that screen time (not related to work or studying) be limited to “less than two hours a day or ten hours a week. More time than this spent on a computer is considered to be an addiction.”8 Perhaps most importantly, remember that actions speak louder than words. Christians are on duty for Christ and not only are strangers watching us, but so are our children. What are you watching, listening to and reading and how much time are you spending in the pursuit of entertainment? Are you communicating the hope of God in your home and impressing His values on your children?

Having focused on the negative aspects and the dangers of the media, let us not forget how powerful a weapon it can also be for the Gospel of Christ. Never as before, do Christians have the ability to reach so many people with the message of salvation and to share with fellow Christians. We have been provided with powerful tools, let us use them wisely and to God’s honour.

This article first appeared in the November/December 2006 issue of the RCS News Review, published by Rehoboth Christian School, located in Copetown, Ontario, governed by a board made up of parents of Free Reformed Churches in the area. This article was also printed the the FRC Messenger and is republished here with permission. It is written by Corrie Neven and was published under the auspices of the school’s Education Committee. Corrie and her husband James are parents of four young children, including twins. They are members of Providence Free Reformed Church of St. George, Ontario.

Endnotes

1 Report “Generation M: Media in the Lives of 8-18 Year Olds,” www.kff.org/entmedia/index.cfm, 9 March 2005.

2 Focus on the Family, “Our Mission,”www.pluggedinonline.com.

 3 J.C. Long, “Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Review,” www.almenconi.com, 3 December 2002.

4 Al Menconi, “Video Games Influence Us: Part 1,” www.almenconi.com, 27 June 2006.

5 Marcus Yoars-Reviewer, Focus on the Family, www.pluggedinonline.com,

6 Steve Maich, “The Web Sucks,” Macleans 30 October 2006: 45.

7 Ibid, 49.

8 Al Menconi, “Video Games Influence Us: Part 2,” www.almenconi.com, 27 June 2006.