Thursday, January 8, 2009

Entertainment and Children

The following is a short article I wrote for our parent's newsletter "Homefront." I hope you can take the time to read it.

Stephanie and I were sitting in the movie theater over Christmas break watching the movie The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. Toward the front there was an entire row full of what looked to be sixth graders—and no parents to be found. Over the next three hours they were exposed to an interesting story, but one that contained its fair share of “adult” themes. And it just made me wonder if their parents would have any discussion with them about what they had seen.

Parents, our children, even from a young age in our American culture, are exposed to all sorts of entertainment. From Baby Einstein and the Wiggles (or whatever else is popular today) to Hannah Montana to any number of television shows, musicians, and movies that are geared toward teenagers. And very few of those in the entertainment industry are trying to produce their product in a way that teaches the gospel.

Slowly, but surely, these sources of entertainment rub off on our children.
A few years ago, I noticed how in movies at times, my hopes for the story’s outcome was extremely unbiblical. At times, based on how the story was arranged, I found myself almost wishing for a frustrated wife who had a jerk of a husband to finally find her “true love” in another man who respected and romanced her. Or more commonly, I would find that for some reason, it didn’t bother me that the two main characters of a movie or television show were unmarried yet intimately involved. Of course when I thought further about these things instead of getting wrapped up in the storyline I was able to sense their error. But our children don’t often do that type of reflective thinking. Movies can glorify revenge, anger, violence, jealousy, promiscuity, etc. Few glorify Christ and godliness. So we must be careful about how we parent in the realm of entertainment.

I am not one to advocate just completely isolating your family from the world and pretending that secular music, movies, or television shows do not exist. There can be beautiful stories—and even biblical principles at times—that are conveyed through these mediums. The key, I think, is to help your children learn to think critically about these sources of entertainment. You have to be hands-on, hopefully from an early age. Try to help them evaluate whether or not a given source of entertainment is consistent with the gospel—and then whether it is worth subjecting yourself to...Here are some practical things to think about:

Music. This isn’t as much of an issue with younger children as it is with teenagers. But discuss lyrics with your children. Be familiar with who they listen to and what the content of their message is. And be willing to put your foot down if the content of the music is garbage. They will probably protest that they only like “the beat,” but you can’t separate the two. They wouldn’t listen to it if it was just an instrumental version. So help them think through whether the words are really edifying and whether they really bring honor to Christ. If they are a believer, this should be the best course of action. Help them see the sinfulness of the songs rather than just saying “I said so.”

Movies. Do the same thing with movies. Have standards for what they are allowed to watch that go beyond the standard rating system (G, PG, PG-13, R, etc.). Those might be a starting point, but they should not be a final say. Benjamin Button, for example, is rated PG-13, but has numerous themes and scenes that are inappropriate for a 13 year old. Just because a movie theater allows kids to enter doesn’t mean that it’s edifying for them...So try to use resources like Plugged-In or Planet Wisdom to help you evaluate movies with your children. Don’t let them see movies you are unfamiliar with.

Television and Internet. This, I think, is a particularly difficult one for parents. Why? Because we are often unaware of what our kids are viewing at home. But we need to know. Through our cable wires and satellite dishes, all sorts of shows and images are piped in that either overtly or more subtly teaching children that sin is okay and even preferable. For example, on MTV right now there is a reality show that is about two bi-sexual sisters having a competition between guys and girls to win their affections! A similar show was a “favorite” of a teenager from our last youth group. We have to be aware of these temptations they face...Perhaps we should even go so far as to remove all televisions from our children’s rooms…Not to mention computers. I think that no child should be allowed in today’s society to have a computer in their own room.

That said, all these actions HAVE to be paired with discussion. Does this source of entertainment bring glory to Christ? These are tough issues, but very important!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...


Sorry, I meant for my coments to be concerning the Entertainment and Children.

I goofed.

Grandma G.