We all know there are downsides to mindless eating. When we stop thinking about what we put in our mouths, we tend to eat the easiest, quickest, and tastiest foods. Unfortunately, those foods also tend to be the least nutritious, most fattening, and even destructive to our health.
As parents, we see part of our role as making sure our kids eat moderately healthy when they’re small and begin to take responsibility for choosing some healthy foods for themselves as they get older.
Sometimes we pay less attention to our diet of media than even to what we eat. When we consume media mindlessly, we likewise tend to watch, listen to, read, and play the easiest, quickest, and tastiest media possible. Without self-control, the result can become a steady diet of shallow, irrelevant, and even destructive media.
As with food, part of our job as parents is to begin to help our kids to develop an appetite for meatier, healthier, and more challenging media—without overdoing even the best media choices. Yes, we see our role as protecting our kids from “bad” media, but can we also help them to grow wise is choosing from among the seemingly “values neutral” or even positive media options?
One way nutritionists help people begin to understand their food diet is by having them keep a food log, a record of everything they eat for a set period of time. Often, participants are surprised to discover exactly what and how much food they’re taking in without ever really thinking about it.
We’re suggesting a family activity this month designed to work in much the same way, except with media consumption.
Explain to your family that you have an assignment for all of you, including the parents. You’re all going to keep a media log for one full week.
Talk about the fact that we take in a lot of media every week, often without even thinking about it. And just as we have to learn to pay attention to what food we put in our bodies, it’s a good idea to understand what and why we’re putting media content in our minds.
We suggest coming up with simple, spiral-bound notebooks for everyone in the family old enough to participate. Describe that you would like them to keep a simple list for each of the next seven days of every TV show, movie, video game, computer game, social network, book, magazine, and web site they spend time taking in. You’d also like them to jot down how much time they spent on that media choice.
These lists could include things like the following:
“Community” TV show (30 minutes)
History textbook (30 minutes)
“Guitar Hero” (30 minutes)
PlanetWisdom.com (15 minutes)
Facebook (15 minutes)
“Surrogates” movie (90 minutes)
NFL Football (2 hours)
Taylor Swift CD (60 minutes)
The Bible (10 minutes)
Assure them that you understand some of these activities will be going on at the same time. Suggest that they just guess as best they can how much time they spent on each thing if they’re not sure. Consider helping keep a log for the younger members of your family so they can participate, as well. Little kids eat media, too.
Make sure everyone understands, also, that you know this will take a little time and effort. You might think about offering a reward of some kind for completing the task—maybe a family night out or individual privileges of some kind, whatever will ensure as much involvement as possible.
After the week is complete, get the family back together and ask them to look through their own notebooks. Ask some of the following kinds of questions, as you discuss together the kinds of media you all consume:
- As you look over the media you consumed for the last 7 days, does anything surprise you about your list?
- Do you usually think about what media you’re taking in or how much of it?
- What kind of media did you spend the most time consuming?
- What specific thing did you spend the most time with?
- What were your 3 favorite media “things” (shows, social networks, books, etc.) that you consumed this week?
- What media did you take in that you wish you hadn’t? Why?
- What media now feels like a waste of time for you?
- How much of the media on your list helped you in some way?
- How much of it was fun?
- How much of it was educational?
- How much of it had values that matched up with what the Bible teaches to be true?
- How much had values that were very different from what the Bible teaches to be true?
As you wrap up the conversation, be sure to emphasize that the media we consume does have an impact on what we think, feel, and believe—even if we don’t always notice that happening. You might read from Philippians 4:8, where Paul is describing part of the process of controlling our anxiety:
“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable