All kinds of digital screens are flashing worldly values in front of kids at a pace that feels impossible to keep up with. What can we do to combat the influence of harmful media values? We can teach our children to recognize these values for the unhealthy guides they are, and empower them to practice discernment in understanding what is good and truthful, and what isn’t.
Let’s start by breaking down the harmful media values into four categories and how you can teach kids to recognize them.
The 4 Harmful Media Values
The first category is materialism, or in kid language, “the love of things”. Materialism is everywhere in the media, while society likes to make kids (and adults) feel like they never have enough, that life will be better when they get that “one thing”, or that more people will respect them for their possessions.
To help kids understand materialism and what God thinks about it, review Luke chapter 12 where the Bible talks about greed and the things that life should consist of rather than possessions. Those things are obtaining eternal life, working for the kingdom of God here on earth, taking care of others, and laying up treasure in Heaven. To remind kids of this, plan activities to help kids learn how to share their belongings. You can also adopt the saying, “they’re just things” to help contrast the importance of possessions to the greater importance of people, relationships, faith, and service.
Another harmful media value to help kids recognize is amoralism, or the absence of God’s law. Have kids list things the media portrays as good, but that God calls evil. Even PG-rated shows have these. Some examples are worship of nature, witchcraft and sorcery, violence, rebellion against parents and other authority, and inappropriate sexual content.
Even though all individual people are equal, not all thoughts, values, and worldviews are equal, while God’s moral law was created to protect us and honor others. The media often portrays evil things as good just because they feel good in the moment, but these things can often harm others, ourselves, or our relationship with God. It’s important that kids learn to spot evil for what it is and to see truth when the media calls anything outside of God’s law good.
A third harmful media value to help kids recognize is selfishness and self-centeredness, or the worship of “self” — as if the world should revolve around ourselves and what we as individuals want. Although confidence is good, there’s a “believe in yourself” philosophy that can be damaging when that trust in yourself supersedes trusting in God’s wisdom. The Bible says the human heart — our mind, will, and emotions — is selfish, deceitful, and wicked. So no, don’t follow your heart, kids; it will lead you in the wrong direction! Philippians 2 tells us to focus on encouraging others, to be selfless and consider others more important than ourselves, and to serve others before ourselves. Living, loving, and honoring others this way ensures that we are all taken care of and supported, and is a humble demonstration of how God loves us.
The fourth harmful media value is vanity and narcissism, or the worship of outward beauty. Teach kids that true attractiveness is the result of kindness, friendliness, cleanliness, a positive attitude, thoughtful words and actions, intelligence, poise, and consideration of others. Adults can model God’s emphasis on attractiveness of the heart by complementing these traits in children, instead of complementing clothing or the body one was born with.
Proverbs 11:12 has a great analogy for this: “Like a gold ring in a pig’s snout is a beautiful woman without discretion.” In other words, you can be the most attractive person in the world, but if all you think or say is rude, unfriendly, inconsiderate, complaining, or selfish things, you are no longer attractive. Looks and what’s on the outside don’t matter — only the heart and what’s on the inside!
How to Help Kids Use Media to Learn Godly Values
Often, even worldly children’s programming will have a significant moral or selfless message to have it considered a family friendly show, while still throwing in one or more of the amoral elements listed above. Since the good outweighs the bad, as parents and adults, we tolerate it and underestimate the influence both elements can have on children. But how can you help kids use media to learn those good values over the bad?
Do a debrief after shows and ask kids if they saw anything materialistic, amoral, self-centered, or elevating external beauty. Next, talk about what they noticed in it that was good, and compare the two — calling attention to how both good and bad values made them feel. This is especially powerful when you provide kids with media that promotes godly values and ask them afterwards how they felt compared to the other type of show. There’s a part of the brain that will say “I really enjoyed that entertainment”, while there’s another part of the brain that might have an uneasy feeling for the darkness experienced. Explain that the more we ignore that uneasy feeling, the more we harden our heart towards the Holy Spirit, until we reach the point where we can’t hear God whispering to us at all.
CEF Resources Can Help
If you want access to a wide variety of godly media suitable for children, Child Evangelism Fellowship can help. You can find wholesome stories of Christian heroes, Bible heroes, and songs on the CEF YouTube channel. Just go to YouTube and search for “U-Nite Kids”, or click this link to find several seasons of Good News Club TV, Good News Radio, and other wholesome content that helps kids learn God’s Word.