“That’s my online stuff. It has nothing to do with school or with church.”
So goes the teenage (and the adult) mind. A wide gulf separates churchy stuff from school stuff and from media. Never they will meet, in the teenage mind. In other words, the teen things, what I do in school has nothing to do with the movies I watch. What I say and do in Youth Group has nothing to do with my online activities or the songs I choose to listen to.
Unfortunately, God does not see it that way. If all things belong to God–and they do–then everything under the sun is His. All my time, all my thoughts, all my goals, and all my media belong to Him.
O Lord, you have searched me and known me! You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar. You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways. Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O Lord, you know it altogether. You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high; I cannot attain it. (ESV Ps 139:1-6)
We think about God in the appropriate places: in class if we are in Christian or home school. In church and Youth Group. With our Bible study friends. But walk out the door and that gets left behind.
Teach your teenager to think biblically about all things, whether school or church or home. Teach him that whatever goes into his mind is subject to worldly thoughts or biblical thoughts. Teach him to filter all things through his biblical worldview. And that includes media. Teach him that to love God is to love Him “with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength” (Mark 12:30).
Do not allow him to separate the secular from the sacred. If media is out there, it is being watched, read, listened to, and discussed. Talk with your teen about the media he uses. Don’t be afraid of it!
Be purposeful with your teenager about media. Talk about his social media: what he does online. Who does he follow on Twitter? What does he say on Twitter? Follow him to find out! If it looks sketchy, like he is taking risks talking to people who have uncertain reputations or followings, then take action to block your internet service on all of his devices. Ask your phone provider how to block his internet use on his phone. Talk to your service provider about parental controls. Load Covenant Eyes onto your computers. It is impossible to disable and sends a report to you about his internet activity. We have used it for years. Your job is to guard their hearts, and to teach them how to guard their own hearts, by guarding their media. See Ps. 139:23-24 and Prov. 4:23.
And honestly, what might you lose by taking away an electronic device or two while you wait for his behavior to improve? Does he really need it all? Don’t be afraid to be a parent to your teen.
If your child doesn’t want to be your FaceBook friend, then he is not old enough or mature enough to have an account. Your child–this may seem shocking to you–does not have a right to privacy in your home since you are his parent and he is a minor. If he is secretive about his social media, there is probably a reason.
Watch TV and movies together with your teen, if you allow television. Even if you do not watch regular TV, you should be getting together to watch movies and discuss them, just like it is part of a class activity. Get out a sheet of paper and write down the following questions about the movie. Take notes during the movie. As a family, discuss everyone’s notes. Ask these questions about what is contained/portrayed in any piece of media you read or watch together.
The Seven Worldview Questions (thanks to David Quine, Cornerstone Curriculum):
- What is the nature of God as displayed in this (movie, book, TV show)?
- What is the nature of man?
- What is the nature of the universe?
- What is basis of morality and ethics?
- What is the cause of evil and suffering?
- What happens to man at death?
- What is the meaning of history?
Do the same thing with books that your teenager reads, either for class or for leisure. Choose classics, and choose contemporary books that other kids are reading. Don’t be afraid of them. Kids are reading them, and you bet they are talking about them, so you might want to examine, from a biblical worldview, what they are talking about so that your teen has an answer for the faith that lies within him. So that he is not taken captive by empty philosophy because no one talked with him about it.
True story: I was afraid of the Harry Potter books and forbade my children to read them. They argued with me. “Mom,” they reasoned, “how do you know they’re bad if you haven’t read them?” I just asked them to trust me. And then a few years later a student’s mother told me that she wouldn’t let her son read a horror novel like Frankenstein for my class. We read that book from a biblical worldview, and it produces some great a-ha moments for my teenage students. I argued with the mom. “How do you know it’s a horrible book if you haven’t opened it to read it?” I went home fuming to my family. My oldest son just looked at me, and I read his mind. I had given my son the same answer to the Harry Potter series without even having cracked them open.
Once I read the books, I could see the beautiful worldview depicted in JK Rowling’s world, and I highly recommend it to every parent. The sacrificial love, forgiveness, redemption, and friendship in that book are incredibly poignant. I apologized to my son.
Fearlessly view and review your teen’s media together. Talk about it from a biblical worldview. You will learn something as well as he does. And neither of you will be able to view media the same way again. I called that “spoiled for good.”
(Remember, I am not limiting this list to Christian media, or to “safe” movies. We live in the world and are not of the world. We view media and discuss it biblically. Examine it for truths and for lies. Spot them and discuss them. With the above discussion guide, it should get easier to discuss.)
- The Island
- The Village
- Star Wars
- The Hunger Games
- Lord of the Rings
- The Truman Show
- The Lion King
- The Dark Knight
- Life of Pi
- I, Robot
- 2001: A Space Odyssey
- Star Trek: Wrath of Khan
- Les Miserables
Books to discuss from a biblical worldview.
You can do the same with books, using the seven worldview questions.
- The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
- The Picture of Dorian Gray
- Heart of Darkness
- Tale of Two Cities
- Hunger Games
- Harry Potter series
- Lord of the Rings series
- Narnia series
- Lord of the Flies
- Animal Farm
- Ender’s Game
- Last of the Mohicans
- Les Miserables
- Moby Dick
- Count of Monte Cristo
- Brothers Karamazov
- The Iliad
- To Kill a Mockingbird
Be wise, and don’t fear. Together you and your teen will survive these years, and with prayer and wisdom, he will come out the other side holding onto his faith more strongly than before. And he will be armed with information and ideas to take out into the world to his friends as an apologetic tool (1 Pet. 3:13-17). See my next blog on apologetics for teenagers.