A Catholic Convert in Ottawa

To Download or Not to Download

Posted on: January 31, 2013

On an average day, parenting a teen or preteen is challenging, especially since this is a highly tech-savvy generation. Even young children have access to MP3 players, tablets and smartphones today—and they know how to use them.

Since my son bought his MP3 player last year, he’s become very interested in downloading music and apps; he’s also an avid video gamer, and movie night is a common event at our house. As you can imagine, we often disagree about what is appropriate for him to listen to, play or watch.

Video gamer

My son (then about 8) playing video games

It’s our job to “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6, Holy Bible, Revised Standard Version, Second Catholic Edition), but how much thought do we give to whether the media our children consume reflect our beliefs and values as Catholics?

We need to decide carefully what we’re willing to let our children listen to, watch or play. But if you’re not familiar with the artists, games or movies your child is interested in, where do you find help?

  • Learn how to dig deep. Brett Ullman’s media.faith.culture – Parents 101 book not only provides great insight into the issues teens face today but also explains how to look critically at their media choices to find out what messages and values are being promoted.
  • Put your favourite search engine to work. When my son asks to download a song I haven’t heard, I check out the lyrics on the web. You can also take advantage of the preview function on music download sites.
  • Check the “nutrition facts.” Game and movie packages offer a lot of information about the content. When we go to any store that has video games or the library, my son heads right for the video games. But he knows that if the box describes the game as M-rated or states that it features the use of drugs or intense violence, I’ll reject it—and that if I don’t like the game when I see it, I reserve the right to shut it down and return it to the library.
  • See if someone else has paved the way. You can check the Entertainment Software Rating Board site, Movies.com or Focus on the Family’s Plugged In site, for example. If I read that a game is a first-person shooter packed with violence or a movie is not suitable for anyone under 16, my decision becomes a lot easier. Of course, ratings are only a guideline. We’ve recorded PG-13 movies that turn out to be more violent or contain more profanity than we would have expected.

While my son often hears me say, “Umm…no,” to his requests to download or buy things, that doesn’t mean he easily accepts my answer. But I’m happy to be unpopular for a little while if it means that media items out of sync with our values stay out of our house.

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Food for Thought

(Y)ou do not know about tomorrow. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we shall live and we shall do this or that.” ~ James 4:14-15

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