Q&A: Teaching discernment or making it a rule


How do we establish workable media standards for our teenagers? I understand the importance of teaching thoughtful discernment, but sometimes I feel the need for more solid guidelines in order to gauge the merits of movies, television programs, and music. Can you suggest anything?

Answer: It’s a good idea to avoid extremes. Some mums and dads choose to “lay down the law.” No movies. No television. Period. This approach may simplify your entertainment purchasing decisions, but it can also breed rebellion.

Other parents go to the opposite extreme. Anything goes. Do whatever you want. But this permissive approach also has some major drawbacks. We’d encourage you to steer a middle course by agreeing on shared moral values and then working together with your kids to set healthy boundaries

It’s basically a question of deciding how much you want to shield your teens from questionable entertainment, and to what extent you’d like to discuss popular media with them. Try to strike a healthy balance between the two. Put your ideas into writing and develop a “family entertainment constitution.” Where possible, include suggestions from the children – this will ensure their buy-in and ownership of the parameters. Once the document has been drafted, post it on your refrigerator door. Make it clear that it applies to all members of the family. Stand firm when violations occur.

Where music is concerned, it’s wise to remember that style can be deceptive. It’s entirely possible for harder genres to offer up positive messages while some mellower musicians dump all sorts of lyrical sewage on their fans. Try not to be swayed purely by personal preference. Don’t get distracted by the style or look of the messenger. Instead, take a close look at the ideas being conveyed. 

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