Train up a child in the way of the world and from it he will not depart

29 Oct

I’m very concerned about what goes into my kids heads, and I try to limit the amount of filth that they are exposed to. They remind me of it every day. “But Dad, so and so get’s to watch R rated movies!” or “You’re so strict!” or “I’m the only one of my friends who doesn’t get to play M games!” The fact is that most of their friends parents hear the same thing.

If you’re a concerned parent and you identify with the last paragraph, then this post is for you, especially the links toward the bottom. If this doesn’t concern you as much, I ask that you please read this short list of facts and the links that they come from first. Then think about how you want to follow Proverbs 22:6 and “Train up a child in the way he should go”, or not.

Some frightening facts:

  • The typical 11-year-old has seen nearly 8,000 murders on TV
  • Today’s television programming averages over 800 violent acts per hour – all which is easily available especially to the more than 50% of children who have a television in their bedroom
  • One study showed that 15% of music videos now show interpersonal violence
  • More than 12% of children aged 10 to 14 watch R-rated movies regularly
  • The average kid today spends 50% more time in front of media than in school

Why is this a big deal?

  • When kids are exposed to media violence, they can become desensitized to it and become more violent and aggressive
  • The American Academy of Pediatrics says that “playing violent video games leads to adolescent violence like smoking leads to lung cancer.”
  • Research from Yale, the NIT, and more indicates all of the following children’s health concerns are strongly associated with exposure to media: obesity, tobacco use, sexual behavior, drug use and low academic achievement

These above facts come from the following excellent sources, which you should at least skim through:

As Christians, we should know this stuff. The Bible has been telling its readers for years. Here’s just a few verses we should be aware of.

“Do not be conformed to this world,but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Romans 12:2 ESV). We should not be worldly for we are not worldly. Focus on what is good.

“Do not be deceived: Bad company ruins good morals.” (1 Cor 15:33 ESV). When we’re around a bad influence, it impacts the way we behave and even think. That bad influence doesn’t have to be a real person. It can just as well be a fictional person on television that we “get to know” or identify with. That will influence us as well. Think about how movies or shows have inspired or impacted you, or watch your kids playing after they’ve just watched something and see how it impacts their thinking.

What we watch influences how we think and what we do. The saying “garbage in, garbage out” is not from the Bible, but the principle is certainly found there. Proverbs 15:14 (NLT) says that “A wise person is hungry for knowledge, while the fool feeds on trash.” Don’t feed on the trash. (Even a spec of dog poop ruins a batch of brownies).

You might say that “it’s just entertainment and it wont affect me”, but that’s not what the Bible says. When Paul was wrapping up his letter to the Romans, he wrote to them “I want you to be wise as to what is good and innocent as to what is evil” Romans 16:19b (ESV). While he was talking about doctrine, certainly the principle applies beyond that. We should avoid what is evil and what is trash and instead regard what Paul writes to the Philippians: “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” That is where God wants our minds to be.

As parents, it’s difficult to search our way through all the media that our kids watch or games that they play. So to help navigate the waters, the following websites are very useful, especially the first two.

Commonsense media – Provides reviews of movies and video games with age recommendations. Also allows for parents and kids to comment on their reviews and make their own. The comments can be extremely valuable.

Plugged in – A resource of Focus on the Family that provides in depth reviews of movies and games. Unlike most secular parenting reviews, this site also includes in its reviews all references in the movie to spiritual content or spiritual issues making it very valuable to the Christian parent. Perhaps the only thing some may find lacking is age recommendations. UPDATE 2013: They have added a rating called “Content Caution” which greatly helps.

Movie Mom – an interfaith website with short movie reviews and some age range recommendations.

IMDb – scroll down on the movie page to Parents Guide (just below the ratings info). Offers information on movies in categories of: Sex & Nudity, Violence & Gore, Profanity, Alcohol/Drugs/Smoking and Frightening/Intense Scenes.

Netflix has similar reviews to IMBd and offers age recommendations if you view the movies through their website, but as of this post there is still no way I know of to review that information from your television.

(This post by C. Michael Patton offers a good guide for making your decision after you’ve read about a movie, though I’m not convinced that watching movies about sorcery doesn’t attract more people to it. I think he may be mistaken on that one. Why would everything else people watch (violence, sex, etc.) show a statistical correlation to their behavior but not sorcery? Actual sorcery may not be accessible, but Wicca certainly is. Also, sometimes the attraction is that something is not accessible so it keeps people attracted to it and longing for it, so be mindful of that as well. Still, a nice acronym for making wise decisions about media.)

There are also other options if there’s really some movies that you want to see, and yet avoid all the negative content. Technology has advanced and now you actually have the ability to take offensive content out of DVDs or television. If you’re interested, here are a couple devices that can filter movies and television for you.

Plugged in online’s website also offers a section called “Movie Nights” with pdf’s that you can download to help guide you and your family through discussions about movies with your children. The list of movies is much more limited than their reviews, but there are quite a few. These tools help you teach Biblical principles to your family using secular movies.

One final note that I think may be helpful. Often even if you do your best to keep your kids filtered, they can get exposed to objectionable content at a friends house. Focus on the Family offers some insight on how to handle this kind of situation.

Someday our kids will have to deal with media’s impact on this darkening world. Let’s train them up to be the lights.

One Response to “Train up a child in the way of the world and from it he will not depart”

  1. April January 6, 2015 at 5:18 pm #

    Love this post. We hear that VERY often…but feel like we are living in a society where violence and mega amounts of media time are all acceptable. Thanks for the links!

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