“Beware the Big D: Distractions!”
“Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.” Romans 12: 2 (The Message)
Busyness is the norm for our culture in the US and other independent and prosperous nations. Technology is part of our everyday lives, with the cellphone being the most obligatory and readily available device. Truly, these are potent hand-held computers with access to the Internet, and therefore access to the world. With just a few keystrokes, one can be connected to information beyond the scope of even the most sophisticated library research department and certainly faster.
Jimmy Evans, well-known speaker and founder of Marriage Today, has stated, “Technology is a good servant, but a terrible master.” He refers to our ever-present technology access as an “electronic intrusion”.
Toddlers and preschoolers are handed iPads and are immediately entertained by games, videos, and mind-numbing “educational” websites. Marie Winn, author of the 1977 book, The Plug-In Drug: Television, Children, and the Family, called the television a “babysitter”. She wrote:
“The very nature of the television experience apart from the contents of the programs is rarely considered. Perhaps the ever-changing array of sights and sounds coming out of the machine — the wild variety of images meeting the eye and the barrage of human and inhuman sounds reaching the ear — fosters the illusion of a varied experience for the viewer. It is easy to overlook a deceptively simple fact: one is always watching television… rather than having any other experience.”
Wouldn’t she be amazed and shocked by our newest type of babysitter!
But it’s not just young children who are distracted by entertainment. In 1985, Neil Postman wrote the provocative book, Amusing Ourselves to Death. He wasn’t as concerned with the entertainment he found on TV, as much as he recognized the consolidation of each day’s news into a concise and palatable formula-driven presentation via attractive and personable “news anchors”. News as entertainment!
Our days begin with checking the latest posts on social media, turning on the TV, or listening to music or talk radio. Rarely is silence acceptable… or even conversation. In our cars, we reach for the radio so music or SiriusXM can fill the air. Our children and teens are connected to media via earbuds, making discussion difficult, if not virtually impossible.
“US teens spend an average of more than seven hours per day on screen media for entertainment, and tweens spend nearly five hours, a new report finds — and that doesn’t include time spent using screens for school and homework.” (http://www.cnn.com/2019/10/29/health/common-sense-kids-media-use-report-wellness/index.html)
We have short attention spans and are easily distracted by sounds, movements, and even random thoughts, worries, memories, and “to do” lists.
Our prayer time can be especially difficult as the need to concentrate and stay focused is an ongoing challenge. Our minds wander to phone calls we need to make, items that need to be fixed or purchased, or snippets of replayed conversations with a spouse or friend.
Tim Challies stated in “The Danger of Distraction”:
“All of this distraction is reshaping us in two dangerous ways. First, we are tempted to forsake quality for quantity, believing the lie that virtue comes through speed, productivity, and efficiency. We think that more must be better, and so we drive ourselves to do more, accomplish more, be more. And second, as this happens, we lose our ability to engage in deeper ways of thinking — concentrated, focused thought that requires time and cannot be rushed. Instead of focusing our efforts in a few directions, we give scant attention to many things, skimming instead of studying. We live rushed lives and forget how to move slowly, carefully, and thoughtfully through life.
The challenge facing us is clear. We need to relearn how to think, and we need to discipline ourselves to think deeply, conquering the distractions in our lives so that we can live deeply.” (http://www.faithgateway.com/danger-distraction)
The isolation caused by the COVID 19 pandemic has become a societal reprieve from our over-scheduled days and has allowed choices to be made for the hours we spend either alone or with family members. How can we enjoy the new-found time? What a delightful question!
So how can we help teens become media-savvy about the culture that surrounds them?
It’s time to have face-to-face discussions with the teens in your life. Life’s decisions and goals are often formulated in the teen years. Ask open-ended questions that don’t have specific and “correct” answers.
• “If you had to give up one type of technology, what would it be?”
• “If you could spend a day with a friend without any form of technology available, what would you do?”
• “What’s your favorite memory from childhood?”
• “We could start a family ‘book club’. We can select an age-appropriate book, have each family member read it, and then discuss various aspects of it. What do you think of this idea?”
Family time is the foundation for establishing God’s principles and family values. These are embedded in children by actions, not words. We need to be intentional in our use of time together.
Sue Summers is a Christian media analyst, teacher, author, and speaker. She is the Director of Media Alert!
Her website is: www.MediaAlert.org
Sue can be reached at: Sue@MediaAlert.org
© Sue Summers 2020