The University of Minnesota School of Health recently published a study documenting how teenagers who have a television in their bedroom are more likely to have unhealthy lifestyles: from poor eating habits, to bad grades, to less time spent with the family.
The results of the study are by no means surprising.
Increasingly we live in an entertainment-saturated culture, and teens like any first-adopters of new trends, live in the forefront of societal shifts. Thanks to television, movies, text-messaging, virtual gaming, chat rooms, and websites like Facebook, entertainment and diversion are always just a click away for teens these days. And while teens do need some “down time” to escape the pressures of school or even work, something is wrong when “down time” becomes “all the time.”
While entertainment is not necessarily a bad thing, it is by its very nature something that draws our attention from one thing to another. Unfortunately, most of the entertainment teens are exposed to today does not divert them from the frivolous to the noble, but the other way around.
Take for instance, a controversial Internet video game that has soared in popularity in Britain since its release earlier this year. The “Miss Bimbo” game is marketed to teenage girls. In this virtual world, players are given a virtual character to care for. They then purchase diet pills, breast enhancements, plastic surgery, and other treatments to make their doll look good. In the game’s own description, the object is to have the “hottest, coolest, most famous bimbo in the whole world.”
While other games may not be quite as in your face as that, they are doing their own damage. Some studies say as many as 10 to 14 percent of families have someone who has become so obsessed with video games, Facebook, and other computer-based pastimes that their virtual lives are damaging their real lives.
And here is what should really concern Christian parents, as author Dick Staub of The Culturally Savvy Christian points out: “When diversion becomes a way of life, we avoid the very issues to which we should be most attentive. We are diverted from the grim, unpleasant truth that our lives lack meaning without God . . .”
And have no doubt: Teens are looking for meaning. Probe a little while, and you will see. The culture is telling them that entertainment and self-gratification are ends in and of themselves. That is why it is so important for parents, grandparents, Sunday-school teachers, and adult friends to help teens wrestle with the important questions in life-and point them to where they can find the right answers.
Even more importantly, perhaps, Christian adults need to model a lifestyle that is countercultural. Do our entertainment habits sink to the lowest common denominator of mindless entertainment, or are they tempered, molded, and informed by our Christian worldview? Do we live to serve others, or do we live to serve ourselves and our own appetites? Remember: Our teens are watching us.
And remember, also, that character is not taught; it is learned when we see good role models to follow.
So tune in to “BreakPoint” this week, as Mark Earley and I continue to look at teens and teen culture-and how we can help make sure that our teens shape the culture with a Christian worldview, rather than their being shaped by it.
This is part one in a four-part series.