Last Saturday I sat in on a very interesting group during the Open Source afternoon at the National Youthworkers' Convention in Cincinnati. One of the participants had suggested a discussion on "Teens and Media" that caught my attention. I wandered over and found the group. I listened intently as they knocked around ideas for dealing with issues of music and media with kids. While I was only in the group for a short period of time, I came away with a sense that we're all over the place on this issue. No consensus. . . either theologically or pragmatically.
Not surprising. Since I got involved in youth ministry back in the late 70s, this has been one of the most hotly debated issues. . . consistently. Back then, it was solely about music. Video games - or more accurately game (singular) - did exist, but I don't remember anyone raising any ethical or moral concerns about PONG. A sizable group of entrepreneurial types made a nice living traveling from church to church trumpeting the evils of rock and roll music, sometimes convincing easily convinced people that there were loads of hidden messages that could be heard when the music was played in reverse. . . . something my turntable (remember those?) and 8-track player (I'm sure you don't or don't want to remember those!) could never do anyway.
Here's the deal: it's a fact that our kids are growing up in a media-saturated world. Not only that, but the saturation gets greater and greater every day with the development of new technologies and delivery platforms competing for time and allegiance. It's a fact that kids are spending an increased amount of time with media. It's a fact that parents and other adults are largely clueless and/or uninvolved when it comes to helping kids wade through this stuff. It's a fact that the greatest power of music and media is it's power to shape young lives. . . .which will eventually become shaped old lives. It's a fact that the messages are getting edgier and edgier. PONG is no more! And, it's a fact that those who are Christ followers need to think seriously and theologically about the proper way to integrate their faith into all of life. . . including their use of media outlets and messages. Wow.
A couple of weeks ago, the American Academy of Pediatrics released a couple of reports that pound all of this stuff home in some compelling ways. First, there's the AAP's Policy Statement on Media Violence. There's also their Policy Statement - Impact of Music, Music Lyrics, and Music Videos on Children and Youth. Both reports serve as a wake-up call and rallying cry for greater involvement in this area of our kids' lives. To not do so, according to the reports, would be a gross oversight that will only contribute to the continued decline in the well being of our kids. You need to read them both.
After reading the reports I decided that it's important to remind you all of a few things. . .
1. This is serious stuff that we can't ignore. Media shapes and molds kids.
2. Because parents and other adults aren't doing what they should be doing in this area, pediatricians are being advised to understand and monitor the role of media in the lives of their young patients, even to the point of asking some very, very specific questions about media use. Read the recommendations in the reports.
3. The AAP issues a strong call to media literacy efforts among parents, schools, and communities "to educate children to be media literate as a means of protecting them against deleterious health effects of media exposure." This is the stuff that CPYU has been talking about for years. Not only that, but we've worked very hard to develop some practical tools for use in fostering thoughtful media consumption habits (media literacy) in kids. We've put together two guides - How to Use Your Head to Guard Your Heart: A 3(D) Guide to Making Responsible Media Choices that's a faith-based tool, and a similar non-sectarian tool we called Minding Your Media: A 3(D) Guide to Making Responsible Media Choices. The former teaches kids to evaluate everything they see and hear from a Christian/Biblical perspective. The latter does so based on timeless standards of character and virtue. We encourage youth workers and educators to use these tools regularly with their kids.
Just last week I took a look at this engaging video from the band Muse. Their song "Uprising" is hot right now. . . .
And, just last week we posted this review of "Uprising," a review based on our viewing of "Uprising" as seen through the filter of our media evaluation guide, How to Use Your Head to Guard Your Heart: A 3(D) Guide to Making Responsible Media Choices. If you haven't downloaded our piece on "Uprising" already, I encourage you to do so. You can download it here. Again, I can't emphasize enough how important it is to do this type of stuff with your kids on a regular basis.
Because the need is great, we need to answer the need. We've been collectively silent and/or so divided on this that we've wound up doing little or nothing to help our kids. Now, the medical community is speaking up - and they should - in an effort to pick up a ball that's been dropped by the family and church.