There was a time when there were a few layers between a child and the books they chose. There was the teacher, the school librarian and/or the local librarian, and parents. Most families had one, maybe two radios in the house, as well as the one in the car, which Dad controlled without question. The living room furniture was arranged around the only screen, and if you were lucky enough to have one that operated with a remote control, kids still never debated who was in command of their viewing choices.
Today, nothing but a keyboard lies between your child and the latest thing, not only in literature, but in television, movies, and music. They have the ability to connect instantly with their friends. Also within reach are authors that used to be a picture on a dust jacket- they can read about and interact with the writers and celebrities they admire on Facebook, Twitter, and by reading and commenting on their blogs.
In most areas of the country, you won’t be able to depend on the local librarian to help you filter the books your child is interested in reading. The teacher might be able to help some, but if they don’t share your values, that avenue is a dead end. Can you use internet filters, parental controls, and put severe limits on their access to technology? Sure- but in the end, it’s still up to you, Mom and Dad.
Our children need us to invest time and energy helping them make beneficial choices in their media consumption. Just as we tell them to ‘eat their veggies’ at the supper table, they need to be encouraged to focus on well-written, thought-provoking literature, on being able to discern the themes and metaphors behind the plot line of their favorite television shows and movies, and to understand the physical and emotional impact of music on their minds and hearts. Just putting limits on their access doesn’t teach them anything. . . except that we don’t trust their judgment, and we don’t have time to help them learn to develop it.
While it feels like technology has given us more parental problems to deal with, it has also given us tools. We can read reviews of books on Amazon.com, Goodreads, and various book review blogs. We can even go to the author’s blogs and find out the impetus and ideas behind their books.
Movies and television shows are also reviewed, rated, and categorized by some very thorough and, in my opinion, trustworthy websites.
While these tools can’t make decisions for you, they can give you valuable information and guidance, and also the kind of knowledge you need to be able to discuss popular culture with your kids, and help them learn to process it according to Scriptural principles.
Now that people and circumstances that used to act as layers of protection have been stripped away by modern cultural values and technology, more than ever it is up to Dads and Moms to be proactive and vigilant. Fortunately, the same technology that gives us nightmares and headaches can be used to put that most important layer back in place.
If you have a favorite resource for book and movie reviews, share it with readers in the comment section below.