Music, magazines, TV shows, movies, video games… And then there’s social media: Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, Twitter, Reddit, etc. The list never ends with the types of media that our kids are bombarded with on a daily basis. According to a recent CNN.com report, kids spend an average of 9 hours a day with some kind of media. Tweens spend 6 hours a day! And I have to confess, I love media, too!!! Like most people, I have a smartphone, a tablet, watch movies on ROKU, listen to music on Spotify, watch some reality TV and love to go to the movies with my friends! It is a great asset to our lives, most of the time! So how do we, as parents and children’s ministry leaders, limit the influence the media has on our children, or at least control how it is used?
Stay in Touch
It’s always a good idea to know what your kids are doing. Those who control the various forms of media love to target children in order to influence their current and future behavior and “capture” them at a young age. So should we ban them from all media? Absolutely not! But we do need to monitor their media usage and be vigilant about what they are plugged into. As a Children’s Ministry Leader and teacher of 4th-6th graders, it is my responsibility to make sure I keep up with what media trends the kids are into. I recently started playing Pokemon Go! because I wanted to know what the craze was all about. (Since I now play and have knowledge of the game, I have a stronger connection with young adults and kids at my church). I also have Snapchat and Instagram accounts and friend many of the youth. I have done this because I have seen many of the negative consequences when kids get on Snapchat and other social networks and ‘friend’ people they don’t know.
Kids can be easily lured into situations that they are not mature enough to handle. They can also be tricked into clicking on sites that aren’t ‘kid friendly.’ The best way to have effective discussions with your kids is to show interest in the media they are using, which will help you understand why they are attracted to it. If your son (or male learner) loves to play violent video games, discuss the violence with him and how to handle violence in real life situations. As a parent, you may need to limit the amount of time he plays. If you are aware that your daughter is worried about her body image, discuss with her the message that the media is trying to portray, and help educate her on why a lot of these body image expectations are unrealistic.
Set a Good Example
The Church and family can be among the most powerful influences in a kid’s life. You can be a positive role model when it comes to media. What you watch, listen to, and do online, can be a huge influence in a child’s life. For example: I sometimes joke that my car only runs if Christian music is playing!! If my kids and their friends are in my car, they are going to hear Christian music.
By staying connected to the newest technology and the media it delivers, you can stay better connected to your kids. It can open a window to give you a more positive influence. This can lessen the impact of media and help keep Christ in the center of their lives.