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That's Entertainment?!

3 ways to teach your children to make wise media choices

My friend Patty has a son, Keefer, whom she describes as "13 going on 20." Patty and her husband realize many PG-13 rated movies are questionable in content, but they've found several to be acceptable and have allowed Keefer to see them. But they still have questions and concerns. Should a Christian 13-year-old see PG-13 rated movies? Or even an R-rated movie with high educational value, such as Schindler's List? And at what age should a child make his or her own entertainment choices?

Patty and her husband are like many parents. They care about the media choices their children make, but aren't sure how to guide their kids to choose wisely. With television, movies, music, video games, the Internet, newspapers, magazines, books, and more, the world of entertainment can seem so overwhelming that parents simply don't know where to begin. To keep our children away from media influences, we'd literally have to lock them in their bedrooms with the electricity shut off. (Of course, if you lived in my neighborhood, you still might hear the stereo of the kid down the street!)

After all, not everything about the media is bad. When my son, Tony, now 12, was a preschooler, we both learned all kinds of fun science facts through Bill Nye's science program on public television. As we tried several of the experiments Nye demonstrated, Tony developed a love for science that continues to this day. The media helped communicate something educational to my son in an entertaining manner.

When Tony was young, it was simple to monitor his entertainment intake. We didn't get a television until he was three, and we purchased a VCR within the month. Back then, boundaries were easy; he could watch parent-approved videos such as Barney and a few Disney classics. But he didn't stay three forever. Now that Tony is 12, he wants to read comic books, watch action-packed movies, and listen to loud rap music. As a parent, I'm often like Patty, constantly worrying about the negative messages my son receives from the media. Is he going to start cursing after hearing swear words in a song? Should I keep him from seeing the Harry Potter video because he might become interested in witchcraft? Will he become violent because he reads Batman comic books? Will seeing an unmarried couple in bed together lead him toward premarital sex? How do I know which things to let him see, hear, or read, and which things to keep out of our home? And how do I help him handle situations that might arise when he's over at someone else's home, such as when a friend pops in a video we'd deem inappropriate, and expects him to watch it?

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