Thursday, February 4, 2010

If They’re Awake, They’re Online

It is not shocking to anyone with kids, and to some without, that an entire generation of children and teenagers are fully submerged and hooked on screens through various forms of electronic media.

The Kaiser Family Foundation has just released a new study on the younger generation’s excessive online habits. They discovered the average to be more than 7 1/2 hours a day. That’s one third of their lives or nearly one half of their waking moments! Then add the ability and tendency to multitask, and they estimate that some absorb up to a combined 11 hours of media content in any given 7 1/2-hour time frame.

Over the last ten years, every type of media has seen an increase but one – reading. The report also noted the following device statistics. Some 66 percent of kids now own their own cell phone and 76 percent own an iPod or other MP3 player. The average American home owns 3.8 televisions, 2.8 DVD or VCR players, one or more digital video recorders, two computers, 2.3 console video game players, and other devices like the now old-fashioned CD players and radios.

Also discovered was that a surprising number of these ‘wired homes’ rarely turn all of their TV’s off! In addition, an increasing number of media devices are now invading kid’s bedrooms. Presently, a stunning 71% of 8-18-year olds have their own televisions there and half via cable. Another third own laptops with the majority of those having access to some form of high speed web capacity.

But the most sobering and frightening reality of it all might be that most kids have few, or no, concrete controls or limitations placed on how they use all of the above technology. Parents are sometimes unaware while others just don’t seem to care. Maybe they feel that their kids are generally good, or different, or even immune since they live in decent, or even church-going, homes. After all, they maintain, how harmful can all it all really be? To this attitude the Scriptures would offer the advice of 1 Corinthians 10:12, “Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall.”T

his ‘head in the sand’ parental view is part two of the problem – maybe even the largest of the two. It blindly allows precious children to be engrossed and, worse, ‘enlightened’ by whatever immoral or abnormal philosophy happens to infiltrate these highly susceptible minds and hearts. And this does not even count the other side of the two-edged sword of fast-growing sedentary lifestyle characterized by obesity and a lack of the most basic levels of physical fitness.

Unfortunately, the church of Jesus Christ is far from immune to this current cultural trend. Christians seem unable to realize the subtle, but very serious, reality that all sin first originates in the mind. James 1:14-15 points the pattern out like so. “But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death.” It is proven and obvious that what enters the mind most often eventually controls the heart and then the body. This is particularly disturbing when considering how much precious time the typical kid, and even many adults, come under the negative influence of the secular mindset versus the positive impact of the few hours a week often spent on spiritual pursuits.

Not every single detail of every single idea coming from the modern culture is destructive or dangerous in and of itself. The larger issue should not be whether something is mentally or spiritually detrimental in some way. Instead, it should consider if something is helpful, positive, or inspirational in any way. Does it build up the mind and strengthen the soul or just waste far too much precious time and energy? Even those things that are basically decent and even enjoyable can be harmful if they distract the mind from what should be the proper priorities and purpose for life. This is especially true for Christians who are to love, obey, and serve God first and foremost. Matthew 6:33 sums it up briefly and concisely. “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.”

Christian adults are largely responsible before God for the thoughts and ideas they purposely invite into their minds. Also, those who are parents are likewise culpable for most of what shapes the thought processes of their impressionable younger children. Ignorance in this sphere will not be a suitable excuse when all stand before their Creator as His word has stated precisely the type of mental input His people should seek and absorb, and share.

“Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy — meditate on these things. The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you.” (Philippians 4:8)

Bill Breckenridge

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