Some years back, the young woman once known as Ginger Spice made the statement, “You can’t beat attitude, intelligence, and a Wonder Bra.” The phenomenal success of the female British pop group called the Spice Girls was disconcerting to some because of their target market, namely, preteen girls primarily between the ages of 5 and 10. And, once again, parents around the globe were forced to wrestle with the whole notion of role modeling and what they want their children to be exposed to. The evidence on the effect of the media on several generations is just now coming in. It’s a technological peculiarity running from radio to the internet. And, likely as not, we can look forward to whatever techno-devices man’s imagination can conjure up and they’re certain to be amazing. It’s not easy to forget the dulcet-toned voice projecting from the ether at a pavilion at EPCOT Center: “If you can dream it, you can do it.”
The question then becomes, “What is it we’re dreaming of and what dreams do we have for our children and grandchildren?” Is it “Girl Power?” The impact of carefully produced TV personalities, politicians, singers and sports figures on our thought processes is so subtle and yet overwhelming at the same time, that most of us become somewhat calloused out of self-defense and a sense for survival. Man historically never had to take on more than about thirty close family/friend relationships of varying degrees of significance in a lifetime. Presidents and kings, minstrels and performers, seemed to exist as people who were “separate” from the rest of us in the sense that while bringing some kind of guidance or pleasure into our lives, they weren’t seen by us all that much.
But now our emotional anatomy is forced to deal with the likes of the politicians’, movie stars’, and athletes’ extramarital affairs and how they and their families are handling it personally, the cold, detached expression of the schoolboy who just gunned down his classmates and is not quite sure it was wrong, the televangelist crying “Repent!!” days before being discovered dallying with a prostitute, and Kim Kardashian’s views about anything. And many times, we’re confronted with it all in the same evening! The greatest difficulty is that it is all so up-close and personal and we feel so attached to these people, as though we had meaningful relationships with them.
The reality is that we aren’t that closely related at all but because of the nature of their electronic images burned into our consciousness, we can spend undue amounts of time thinking about them. For mature adults, it’s challenging enough, knowing how much to allow into our waking moments, but for our children, the problem of control can be at least intimidating if not downright frightening. Many parents feel as if their kids should not only have a right to being exposed to all that’s out there, but that if they’re not, they may be placed in some position of deprivation or social disadvantage. It’s always tough swimming upstream.
A number of parallels exist between media consumption and cigarette smoking. How many clinical studies will it take to prove conclusively that a lot of either can be hazardous to your health or well-being in some way? It took about 50 years for concerned researchers to discover that cigarettes could kill you. Duh…. Since 1955, when American children began watching significant amounts of television, scholastic achievement test scores steadily declined along with our literacy level as a nation coupled with a pronounced increase in learning disabilities and attention disorders. The research suggests that electronic media should be ingested by careful measure. That’s not to say that TV or computers don’t have some redemptive value because they do if applied judiciously. The danger is when it is allowed to become an addiction and our daughters were found weeping because Ginger decided on a career change and left the group.
The apostle Paul instructed us to think about things that are true, honest, fair, pure, beautiful, constructively noteworthy, virtuous and praiseworthy (Phil. 4:8). He also told us to discipline our thought-life into Christlikeness (2 Cor. 10: 5). If we are really committed to this Christian life, we need to give some serious thought to how much external influence we allow into our homes. Admittedly, it ain’t easy. But that’s the call to battle. We are fighting for the kingdom of God, not for our personal kingdom of comfort. And though God has given us freely all things to enjoy, if left unchecked, the enjoyment factor can degenerate into a mindless carelessness that can destroy the souls of our family members. And that’s the playground of the enemy. We are taught that it’s necessary for us to be in this world but not conformed to it in a way that will prevent our minds from being renewed by the Word of God…..which ultimately builds our faith.