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The Tidal Wave of Media and Today's Teens

Since we live in a media-driven world, how can we stay on top of the media?
By Dennis and Barbara Rainey


Has a tsunami hit your house?

Another term for tsunami is tidal wave—a series of traveling ocean waves usually triggered by an earthquake. In deep water, a tsunami may reach speeds exceeding 600 miles per hour. And when all that force hits land, the wave may be a hundred feet or higher.

One of the worst recorded tsunamis occurred in 1970. About 260,000 people were killed when a monstrous wave crashed ashore in what is now Bangladesh.(1)

Although we live far inland in Arkansas, there’s a kind of tsunami that threatens to crash into our house on a daily basis. It’s the tidal wave of media.

The human race has never had so much to read, view, experience, or listen to as we do today. Just think of the choices you and your children have with a spare hour or two: books, magazines, newspaper, mail, radio, compact discs, videotapes, cable television, e-mail, computer software and games, video games, the Internet. Does this feel like a tidal wave threatening to sweep you away?

Since we live in a media-driven world, how can we stay on top of the media? This is a mammoth parenting issue during adolescence.

The media trap is multifaceted: It’s not only what your child chooses to consume, but in what quantity—and what other important life experiences are shortchanged when he’s involved with media.

The best advice we can offer on supervising your preadolescent or teen’s exposure to media is to stay involved. Media and entertainment issues will provide many opportunities for dialogue between you and your child about your convictions. This will take considerable time and effort, but you need to know the content of the media your child is consuming—music, computer, print, video, television—all of it.

An often-overlooked problem with the media is that some things that might be appropriate for an older child may be inappropriate for a younger one. If you have an older child, challenge him to be a good example to his younger siblings. An older teen in a family who is making the right choices can help you establish the right standards and help you parent a younger brother or sister.

I (Barbara) remember when our older children were at home. I once told our boys about some of the music they enjoyed, “I don’t want you to listen to that stuff because you have little sisters who don’t need to hear it. What you are doing affects everyone else in the family.” They grumbled, but I think they realized deep down inside that they were models.

Although everyone has personal tastes in media, parents need to take responsibility for setting and maintaining media boundaries that are for the good of the entire family. The apostle Paul gives us a great media filter: “Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, let your mind dwell on these things” (Philippians 4:8).

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1) "Tidal wave," World Book Encyclopedia, Volume 19 (Chicago: World Book, Inc., 1988 edition), p.280.

Adapted from Parenting Today’s Adolescent: Helping Your Child Avoid the Traps of the Preteen and Teen Years. Copyright 1998 by Dennis and Barbara Rainey, Used by permission of Thomas Nelson, Inc., Publishers.

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