The world our kids are growing up in is full of media. Our children are constantly presented the opportunity to view, read, or listen to a constant diet of material—good and bad.
So how do we teach them to navigate media? In the early years, we do it for them. Just like we protect our kids from knives, our job is to discern for our children. As they grow, we can have an ongoing conversation with our kids about the media they encounter. Coming alongside kids to help them develop discernment will prepare them to make wise choices as they age.
In teaching our children to be discerning with media, our family teaches four principles to keep in mind with all media, and (for the older child) three questions they can ask themselves as they view or read material.
Four Things to Remember about Media
- Once it's in, it's there forever.
“Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.” ~ Proverbs 4:23 (ESV)
Images, ideas, and words have a way of lodging in our hearts. We're charged with guarding our hearts, and it's a job we must teach our children to take seriously.
- In the world, not of the world.
“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)
Just like the Christians of the New Testament, we live in a largely pagan culture. The ideas and influences our children will be offered will either be influences to renew their minds or to conform them to the world. Teach kids to evaluate their choices spiritually.
- Time is valuable, use it wisely.
“Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.” ~ Ephesians 5:15-16 (ESV)
The Lord has given His people stewardship over a number of resources, including our time. Media can be a wonderful resource—used for learning, rest, and thought-provoking ideas. However, we are responsible for how we use the time God has given us, and we must use it well.
- Flee from sin.
“So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.” ~ 2 Timothy 2:22 (ESV)
In all things, we must guard against sin. When we encounter it, we must flee. Our kids need to learn to call sin by its rightful name, and to respond appropriately.
Three Questions for Children to Ask Themselves About Media
These are questions we run through with our children to help them evaluate a song, a movie, or a book. As they age, they learn to ask themselves these questions about their media.
- Is this biblical?
How does this media fit with the message of the Bible?
- Is this edifying?
Does this media help me grow as a person? Does it make me think about godly things?
- What is the theme?
What message is the author/screenwriter/artist conveying? Do I agree with the theme?
My husband and I work to hold to these principles in our own lives, and we frequently discuss our own media decisions in front of our kids as we wrestle with decisions about what to allow in our own hearts. Through teaching our kids to guard their hearts, asking questions, and allowing them to see our own media decisions, we hope to help them learn to make wise choices. After all, we only choose for them for a short time.
Image Credit: Les Titres du Jour, Théophile-Emmanuel Duverger (1821-1901), Public Domain