One of the biggest challenges facing Christian parents today is making decisions about the influence of the “world” on their children’s spiritual growth. This issue comes to a head when we consider the influences of music, movies and television on our children. This is not an issue we can ignore because technology has made accessibility a liability.
Before I go any further, let me make this one point: you may already have strong convictions on this issue. You may prohibit any secular content of any form in your homes. Or, on the other hand, you might believe that heavy restrictions will just lead to rebellion. If you have prayerfully considered these issues and have come to your own Spirit-directed conclusion, this article is not for you.
However, if you find yourself struggling or vacillating between two opposing ends of the spectrum, the issues presented in this article will hopefully give you some food for thought and some direction for your prayers.
My ultimate purpose is to encourage Christian parents to open up the dialogue with their children about the influence of media on their spiritual growth. Whether we like it or not, we do live in the world – a fallen world – and we all have to learn how to navigate through it.
Here are a few points for you to consider:
1) Know your child. We all want a recipe for parenting, a list of steps that will ensure a great final product. Unfortunately (or, I think, fortunately) the variations in the human race make that impossible. One key element to understanding this issue of what you allow in the home is to know your individual child. How aware are they? How impressionable are they? How mature are they? How much exposure to “worldly” things do they already have? What impact do songs, movies, video games have on their character? Does restriction cause a “forbidden fruit” syndrome in a particular child?
The answers to these questions will influence whether you have the TV on as “background noise” in your home, whether you bring certain movies into your home and whether or not you allow them carte blanche access to secular radio.
2) Realize that they are kids, not mini adults. I remember as a kid listening to secular radio and singing along with words that would make me blush today. At the time, I had no frame of reference for those words – they were simply catchy lyrics to what sounded like a fun song. If we listen to everything with our adult ears, we will want to permanently install plugs in our kids’ ears. After all, there is a lot of trash out there.
While we can’t insulate them from everything, there is some truth to the phrase “you are what you eat” (or listen to or watch in this case). While your children might not get the sexual innuendos in the lyrics they are singing, they might be awakening a part of themselves prematurely. Although he certainly did not follow his own advice to his son, Solomon three times in the book of Song of Solomon warns the reader to “not awaken love before its time.” There is a great lesson there – once awakened, it is hard to put that part of us back. Let’s be aware of promoting pseudo-maturity in our children before their God-given time.
3) Know what they are listening to and watching. Turning on the TV or handing over your tablet and walking away may give you a few minutes of peace and quiet to “get things done,” but that free time comes at a heavy price. Intentional parenting in the area of technology and media takes work. We need to be diligent in making sure that we are aware of what our children are exposed to and they know that this is our expectation. If we set this standard at a young age, our kids will come to expect it when they enter the teen years. It is much easier to loosen the reigns than it is to tighten them.
Consider installing an internet filter. One of the best things we have found is software that works in conjunction with a router that filters the internet before it even enters the home. With one parent designated as the “administrator,” you can establish various “permissions” based on the device connected to the Wi-Fi system in your home.
4) Establish non-negotiable rules. You may have some great ideas of your own. Here are a few suggestions:
- All computers, laptops, tablets must be used in a common area (living room, kitchen, family room, etc).
- You will be given time limits per day or per week.
- You must ask permission before using a media device.
- You must tell a parent what you are going to watch before you watch it.
- You may have intentional computer access only – no “surfing” just for fun.
- You must turn in/off devices at bedtime.
5) Maintain an open dialogue. You might have some hard and fast rules, but let’s not be rigid on this matter. We need to make sure that we keep the lines of communication open with our children on the issue of television, music and videos. Our children need to know why we set the standards we do. If they want more freedoms, encourage them to approach you and discuss them. Listen to what they say. Talk and pray about it together. Don’t communicate a level of mistrust based on your fears rather than evidence.
6) Hold it up to the cross. This tip is for both you and your kids. Teach your children to have discerning eyes and ears. Ask them, “How does this song (video game, TV show, etc) measure up?” “Is it for God, against God or neutral?” In my opinion, the “for God” or “neutral” categories are acceptable forms of entertainment. Keep in mind that just because something is labeled “Christian” does not mean it is “for God.” Some popular Christian music is simply neutral – it is good clean music that neither corrupts nor sanctifies. It is somewhere in the middle. And some fringe Christian artists have some songs that clearly fall in the “for God” category despite their “worldly” sound. Listen and evaluate the content together.
7) Know God’s word on the matter. Raise your hand if you think that “Be in the world not of the world” is a quote from Scripture. Most people do. While the sentiment is clearly biblical, it cannot be found verbatim in the pages of Scripture. Here are some passages that share the same theme:
“Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” 1 John 2:15
“If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you.” John 15:19
“I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify themin the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be sanctifiedin truth.” John 14:17-19
“You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.” James 4:4
“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
If after all of this, you still don’t have any clarity on the issue of secular music, videos and TV, let me leave you with God’s words on the matter:
“So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” 1 Corinthians 10:31
If we make a daily choice to glorify God with everything we say, do, watch, read, I believe that the Spirit will make God’s will for you and your family clear on this issue.
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