Providing a Catholic framework on the truth and meaning of sexuality, love, and family

Helping Your Teen Navigate the Media with Chastity in Mind

Chastity means being pure in our thoughts, words and deeds. The images, messages and lessons that we take in everyday can affect the way that we think, speak and act. Research has shown that the average teen absorbs between 7-10 hours of media every day. Just like a good diet helps our body to be healthy, taking in good media helps our soul to be healthy.

But how do we do that? Remember that YOU are the one with the final say in what your child watches and listen to in your home. The many ways youth receive media can be overwhelming. Here are some suggestions for helping your child make good media choices:

  • Seize “teachable moments”. When a song comes on the radio with objectionable content, don’t just criticize or change the channel, discuss why the content is problematic. For example: “This song sounds like what they played at my high school prom. But I think saying ‘I like big butts and I cannot lie’ really emphasizes someone’s physical attributes over the rest of their personhood, don’t you?” This may seem awkward at first, but it will help create more discernment of media in your home.
  • Check your child’s iTunes, iPods and other mp3 devices to see what songs have been downloaded. Click here for instructions on setting parental controls on the iPhone and iTunes. (While it is possible to restrict the content downloaded on your home computer, it is possible for iPods to be synced from other computers, so it’s important to constantly check your child’s device for questionable or dangerous content.)
  • If you use a DVR, monitor the parental controls to limit exposure to movies or television shows with messages that contradict what you would like your child to absorb.
  • If your child is visiting another home, ask parents what media is allowed in their home and how it is monitored. In previous years, slumber parties meant that everyone gathered around a television and watched a VCR recording. Now, it can mean teens gathered around several laptops, iPads, phones with video and internet access and virtually the entire world of media at teen’s fingertips. Ask how teens will be supervised and encourage your teen to leave if they know something is happening that is wrong or dangerous.

Resources for Parents:

Center for Parent/Youth Understanding: A non-profit organization that seeks to help parents better understand the culture of teenagers. They publish an excellent “Youth Culture Update” that is delivered weekly by e-mail and includes a snapshot of youth culture (what’s #1 in music, movies and television) as well as pertinent articles. Subscribe by entering your e-mail here.

United States Conference of Catholic Bishops: The United States Bishops publish reviews of most movies as they are released in limited or general circulation. They have their own criteria for rating movies that take into consideration the messages the movies are conveying, not just how many times a certain word is said. The USCCB’s movie reviews are archived here. Also on the site are their Top 10 movies of the last several years, some of which may be surprising. Worth a look!

Plugged In: Focus on the Family’s media-review site. It contains helpful reviews of the latest in movies, music, television and other notes on culture and media that parents would find helpful.

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