If you have a teenager, you will probably not be surprised to hear that the most recent studies suggest the average teen spends over nine hours a day in front of a screen. To some of us, this statistic may sound exaggerated, inflated or just flat out wrong, but in my experience with students, this is a conservative number.
This next generation lives online and in front of screens. Between social media and binge watching Netflix, a vast majority of our kids really do live with one foot in an alternate reality.
The reasons I raise the issue of this study is because of the recent conversations I have had with some of my middle school students this year. During lunches I often walk around and float from group to group joining in on conversations and hanging out. Recently, I approached a group as they were discussing the new show they were currently binge watching, 13 Reasons Why, their up-to-date music obsessions including DJ Khaled’s single “I’m The One,” and the all important topic of who had the better lunch and why crust on bread was ever even invented. As kids finished their food the conversations began to die, the group disbanded and a game of nine-square began. A typical Monday lunch.
What was of interest to me was the casualty of tone in which they discussed a few of the ‘afore mentioned topics. Had I been a few years older, or not around young teens everyday, there is a good chance I may not have known what these things were. Reading the paragraph above… do you? Or if you were to see them in the search history of Netflix or iTunes, would you think twice about them?
In case you have not heard of either, here is a brief synopsis:
I’M THE ONE: Amassing over 100+ Million views on YouTube within the first two weeks of its release, the song and music video features major stars like Chance The Rapper and Justin Bieber. The misogynistic lyrics (note: profanities) make the case for why a girl should want to be with them: They’re rich. The video opens with an invitation from Khaled to his crew to come over and “celebrate life, success, and our blessings”. And what are those “blessings”? Girls. Girls that Chance The Rapper and Beiber (both of whom profess to be Christian and have sung worship songs and hymns in concert) talk about in explicit ways.
13 REASONS WHY: Netflix’s current hit is about a teenage girl who commits suicide and leaves behind 13 tapes depicting the exact reason and the people responsible for her suicide. The show is extremely graphic with a plethora of profanity, the F-Word, more than one rape scene, a viewing of the actual slitting of wrists and death of a teen girl, as well as the normalization of underage drinking, homosexuality, and incompetent adults.
Now while I did share my thoughts with the students in the moment, I do not write to condemn either of these things necessarily; I trust your discretion as parents’ regarding what you feel is appropriate for your child in terms of media. (I do, however, think that awareness of what our kids are consuming nine hours of their day is so important to protecting them and helping them make wiser choices.) Especially since it is suggested, according to one study, that 70% of kids hide their online activity from their parents. So what do we do with this ever changing climate of culture and technology we are trying to raise our children in…?
Baymonte Christian School wants to continually come alongside our parents and aid and support in any way we can. In this spirit, here are a few suggestions I have in regards to your children amidst this crazy digital age…
- Know Their Passwords: Not only is it ok, it is imperative that you know the passwords to you child’s devices and accounts. Privacy is important, but sin tends to thrive in secrecy and even the knowledge that mom and dad could view the things they are viewing acts as a major deterrent in most cases.
- Review History Regularly: Check your Netflix history and review the shows that have been watched (by clicking here.) If you do not recognize some, briefly read up a review of it from a trusted source (I recommend Common Sense Media or Plugged In. These are AWESOME websites if you have not seen them before.)
- Have Family Guidelines: Talk with your spouse beforehand and agree upon what your family standards are for media (ie: Are we a family who fast forwards through sexual scenes? Do we turn off a movie if it has it? Do we watch R rated movies? etc.) Then as a united front, talk to your kids about your expectations and what is appropriate to view in your home and what the consequences are if your expectations are not met.
- Be In The Know: In today’s age of technology, things are always changing. Find a source you trust to keep you in the know about what is happening in the lives of your teens. My personal suggestion is to sign up for a weekly “Culture Translator” email from Axis. It is short, informative, and from what I have read the last four months, relatively accurate. You can preview them or sign up for a free email here.
- Talk Openly With Your Kids: Rather than condemn when mistakes are made, create a culture where children first and foremost know that your love for them is unconditional, and that rules and discipline are a part of that love. I also recommend openly talking about things like drugs and sex. If you are not talking about it with them, there is a good chance all their information about such things are coming from media… which is probably one of the worst places they can get information about such things! No matter what they share with you don’t overreact and keep a calm voice when responding. It’s ok to tell your child that you’d like to think about the situation before you respond. Be a safe place for them. I believe the probability that they approach you later in life about such problems are much higher as you have established the culture with them that such topics of conversation are not only ok, but welcomed.