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In the modern digital age, media has played a large role in the lives of children, even the elderly. In recent years, the entertainment industry specifically targets adolescents for their potential consumerism. Today’s generation grows up with screens pressed to their faces and too quickly has the facets of media become a culture within society. With more access and bigger exposure to entertainment, negative influences become prevalent to young, susceptible minds. A solution must be pursued against the harmful effects of media.
The way to make a difference begins by examining the historical background, the scriptural basis, and the challenge Christians have globally in serving as stewards of the faith.
Since the year 2000, children have no understanding of life without technology and entertainment involving media. Corporations and start-ups began appealing to adolescents because of the value and the endless space to begin new ideas to cater to the young. A line was crossed that tells the public it is okay to use digital media to enhance a child’s development.
However, it is difficult to monitor what sources of media and apps that teenagers are using. In the past decade, kids are being exposed to more at a younger age than parents are aware. Psychologist, Dr. Eveline Crone, from the Netherlands, studied the brain alongside media usage and determined, ‘Adolescents’ social lives in particular seem to occur for a large part through smartphones that are ?lled with friends with whom they are constantly connected’ (Crone 1).
True, in this context, to know hours are spent on phones mindlessly gobbling up information at break-neck speed.
While the damage has been done through the cell phone, it is not the only increased stimulus to catch the adolescents eye.
Another strong and often subliminal influence is through advertisements. According to an Op-ed piece from Dr. Bushman on how teenagers are impacted by media, he wrote: ‘A Super Bowl ad costs ?$4 million for 30 seconds. Clearly, advertisers believe that a mere 30 seconds will lead consumers’ (Bushman, et. al). Yet, it is hypocritical for investors of companies to rely on ads and dispense a lot of money into a short bit of time on people, when television shows and movies attain even a higher amount of hook on viewers through its longer lengths of sensory exposure. These examples prove the point that media is negatively influencing adolescents without some of them even knowing. But, what does God have to say about this issue infecting the lives of so many people, Christians, and unbelievers alike?
God warns against the desires and temptations of our hearts, so in relation to media, humans stare and acknowledge the readily available, relentless content they view, thoroughly and unapologetically. Dr. Emily Weinstein discusses the see-saw effect media has on the adolescent’s well-being, stating, ‘Social technologies, like most prior disruptive innovations, are both heralded and demonized’ (Weinstein 3620). As the saying goes from a lecture in Making of the Christian Mind, ‘in the world, but not of the world’. Unbeknownst to a lot of teenagers, they were and still are trapped in a media consumed world with little room to breathe. A passage from scripture that ties into this topic says, ‘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 12:22). God speaks the truth here in Romans because not only are we as humans easily swayed, but we are born as sinners. But, in seeking the correct way through God and His word, can people, specifically adolescents, see once they are in heaven know what it is to be a human, pure, and without sin.
In a multi-method study, doctors ranging from neurosurgeons to sociologists, delve deep in the brain to see that, ‘Subjects who had the most exposure to violent media in their daily life showed the greatest desensitization’ (Deshpande, et. al 7). The inability to see how harmful media plays into modern lives is difficult because of the comfort it provides. Therefore, adolescents tend to be unfazed by the impact media has over them. They are desensitized to the seriousness of its actual portrayal, it’s disheartening. The secular subjective stance on anything these days is, ‘if it feels good then it’s okay’, which can harm teenagers by altering their perception of expectations into harmful body images and potentially create unhealthy sexual urges. Even harder for kids with low self-esteem. But what’s even sadder is the kids who are isolated because of media’s push for solitary confinement.
Media, specifically tv and music, bring comfort to those who need a friend. Saddening to see the state of the world where humans find solace in electronic friends instead of face-to-face interactive conservations with friends. Bushman, again, makes a great point in saying, ‘increasingly clear about the potential impact of media on a variety of health issues’ (Bushman, et. al). Christians not only are susceptible to the influence of media but are slaves to entertainment as well as the unbeliever is. But, the edge Christians have is God and his help from above that can bring light to the issue of immoral and violent stricken images. Dr. Anita Cloete from the University of Stellenbosch, South Africa emphasizes how media-related issues damage the youth, however her solutions definitely help, ‘The Church as an institution has various platforms such as youth groups, catechesis and sermons in which a space can be created for youngsters to discover biblical guidelines and gain an understanding” (Cloete 4). Beneficial to help those asking and seeking answers to help in either digital media addiction, what to watch that is appropriate, or to know when enough media is enough for the day. Christians have the opportunity to be a guide for those struggling in situations such as the ones mentioned above. ‘where youngsters can come to an understanding of God, themselves and others – a safe space where life issues’can be discussed in a responsible way’ (Cloete 4). Christian leaders showing the positive associations with media can contribute to the right approach for those needing help.
Solutions for limiting access to any sort of media-related matter is by setting ratings and blocking certain apps, websites, or channels. Online sites like Common Sense Media provides a basis of content for resources like movies, with parental reviews, and a rating system with separate results done by parents and kids, respectively. Tools like this can help parents talk with their teens and discuss the risks of viewing certain types of movies with excessive violence. Other solutions include helping teens see the hypocrisy in the entertainment industry and the double standard and portrayal of women and certain stereotypes people of color must endure, and the onslaught of sexual misconduct cases. These discussions help dispel the myth of their perfect hero/heroine and help teens separate truth from fiction, both on and off screen. Finding healthy role models for teens at the local community recreational center, for example, gets kids away from their screens and engaging in real-life settings.
Media will never go away. Media’s influence on teenagers is so strong that without the constant stream of connectivity to technology and entertainment, they would not know how to function properly. Successful interaction with media is possible, but until teenagers admit the dangers of negative exposure and separate what is real and what is fantasy, then will a balanced perspective prevail. Through God, do Christians see the light that is shown to rid the evil of this world.
Bushman, B, et.al. “Why Is It So Hard to Believe That Media Influence Children and Adolescents?” Pediatrics, vol. 133, no. 4, Apr. 2014, pp. 571-573. Web. 24 Nov. 2018.
Cloete, Anita. “Youth Culture, Media and Sexuality: What could Faith Communities Contribute?” Hervormde Teologiese Studies 68.2 (2012): 1-6. ProQuest. Web. 24 Nov. 2018.
Crone, Eveline A., and Elly A. Konijn. “Media use and Brain Development during Adolescence.” Nature Communications 9 (2018): 1-10. ProQuest. Web. 24 Nov. 2018.
Deshpande, G, et.al. “Fronto-Parietal Regulation of Media Violence Exposure in Adolescents: A Multi-Method Study.” Social Cognitive & Affective Neuroscience, vol. 6, no. 5, Oct. 2011, pp. 537-547. Web. 24 Nov. 2018.
Weinstein, Emily. ‘The Social Media See-Saw: Positive and Negative Influences on Adolescents’ Affective Well-Being.’ New Media & Society, vol. 20, no. 10, Oct. 2018, pp. 3597-3623.
Archaeological Study Bible. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Corporation, 2005. Print
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