Category Archives: media discernment

Now That’s a Good Point!

Here are some mighty fine stuff out there in the blogosphere:

Neil at 4Simpson’s posts Why Sex is Like Duct Tape.  This one goes hand in hand with my letter to Valentine in the Morning that I posted today.  I’ve actually used the duct tape illustration with my students before (sex comes up a lot.  I reason that since I’m one of the only fellas out there that will give any semblance of sense to them, I let them go there from time to time.  Yeah, risky…but worth it.)

David Porter at A Boomer in the Pew posts God-From Homeboy to Sovereign King. This here’s a mighty fine post…mighty fine.  I hope to make Jesus more than a homeboy too.  It’s a shame that God these days is commonly seen as a guy in “a robe, with flip flops  on, kickin’ it in heaven, with a pick in his afro.”  (that gem comes from Ludacris, by the way, in a recent interview.).  It’s expected for the world to think like that, but those in the church?  C’mon.  I admit, though, that far too often I take the same view of God.

This one’s kinda scary, really. It’s about women nursing toy babies.  This is one consequence of putting off marriage and children for too long.  (ht: Challies.com)

Tim Tebow: a class act.

Ray Ortlund writes on the growing trend of stunning biblical illiteracy in the pew, and what we as the Church can do about it.  It’s our problem, afterall..it’s happening on our watch.  (Thanks again, Challies!)

Gosh I love Mark Steyn!  In this post, he has some choice words for many in mainstream Europe (much of the press) and the United States for following Hamas’ lead in spouting the “oldest hatred.” (ht: Hugh Hewitt)

Heather MacDonald writes on the rising rate of minority and inner city crime, and she puts forth a great solution.  Unfortunately, its one that many in the press and policy makers aren’t considering.  (ht: Lashawn Barber)

Here is the article MacDonald critiques.  What the LA Times doesn’t understand is that the problem in the inner cities is a moral one, not a primarily economic one.  It’s not a problem of the justice system either.  As MacDonald notes, the kid has got to commit a crime in the first place to end up in the system (and who do you think the crime was committed against?  An old white male?  No…most often, its against another minority.)

Hard economic times does exacerbate the problem, but it is only a symptom pointing to a deeper problem.  As long as kids in black and latino neighborhoods come from broken and dysfunctional homes (of course, broken homes are prevalent in largely white neighborhoods as well, but as MacDonald demonstrates, the prevalence is much, much higher in these minority communities.), the cycle will continue.

Have fun, comment away!

The Handoff

Today Hugh Hewitt posted a recent email from a reader about social media and young Evangelicals. The email contains some great thinking and it relates to what I’ve recently posted about on the challenges of electronic media, especially in regards to youth, so I’m linking to it today.

Some pertinent parts:

“The lines of popular cultural engagement are being redrawn, because the rise of new media has fundamentally changed the way people process information at a cognitive level.”

“I have been researching electronic media and intergenerational communication for 10 years, and there really are some broad and deep implications here. One finer point worth mentioning is that print-based communication—which is primarily how the historical works and insights of all religious thought have been preserved—is being displaced as authoritative in society by interactive, and increasingly, peer-based communication. As the influence of new media increases, the influence of the proven ideas of the past stand to decrease. Who benefits from this, and who does not?”

Mark is right on. Go check out his own blog.

Check out some other related posts:

Blogging: An Incredible Opportunity

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Blogging: an Incredible Opportunity

Read parts one, two, and three of this series.

Even though I am keen on the downside of electronic media, I am a big fan of it as well.  I am especially a big fan of blogging…duh.

One of the biggest reasons why is because it is an incredible avenue for proclamation of the Gospel and contending for the Christian worldview.

It’s no secret that most of what we call the “old media” is secular in orientation. This goes even for those outlets that are conservative leaning, such as the Orange County Register (*some* argue that its right leaning, at least. It’s debatable on whether or not its right leaning socially.). A wide swath of it is very much left wing as well: NBC, MSNBC, ABC, CBS, New York Times, Los Angeles Times…these guys are off the charts in their love for all things Lefty.

Blogging undercuts that. It levels the playing field. Time and time again, bloggers have called the old media out on their bias and have kept them honest…well, at least more honest than they would be without the blogosphere.

You’d better watch what you publish, because bloggers will fact check your a**.

Patterico’s often haranguing of Andrew Sullivan is a prime example.

George Whitfield was known for his innovative methods at spreading the Gospel message. He made great use of newspapers, which many preachers of the time didn’t. He preached open air outside of churches. This was something the pastors of older, established churches weren’t willing to do very much. As a result, he was a key instigator in the Great Awakening in both Britain and the American colonies. He displayed innovation at a time when it was sorely needed.

pic courtesy of wikipedia

pic courtesy of wikipedia

Christians and conservatives need to do the same today. For all its downfalls, the internet and the blogosphere specifically offer us an unprecedented opportunity. Through blogs, we can reach countless numbers who would never walk through the doors of a church. Will we embrace the opportunity and be on the cutting edge, or will we stay with the dinosaurs?

Click on parts one through three (links above) of this series to see how we can *wisely* embrace such opportunities.

Like this article? Here are some other related articles:

32 Links to Build your Blogging Knowledge

Tips for Making Friends on Stumbleupon

Thoughts on a Technologically Saturated Life

The Ten Commandments of Blogging

The Handoff

Also, consider subscribing to this blog’s feed via RSS (You can subscribe in the sidebar at the top)


Simon: Hot. God: Not

Is there something in the water in Luton?

A recent survey of 1,600 children in Luton, England turned up some interesting answers.  Among them:

–Simon Cowell was rated more famous than God

–The very best thing in the world is “good looks”simoncowell

–The very worst: being fat

–Second worst: divorce

–What rules would they make were they king/queen of the world? Ban divorce

Hmmmm…perhaps kids in Luton are a little stranger than most, or perhaps they watch more TV. Perhaps the survey givers asked the questions in an odd way that influenced the answers…we can think of a bunch of “perhapses,” but taking things at face value, dare I say: this is not good.

This confirms what I’m seeing in my circles: kids are overly saturated by exposure to entertainment media. Of course, you can’t expect a 10-year-old to give incredibly deep answers (for example, when she was 10, my sister was asked “what’s the best thing about summer?” Her answer: snacks.), but c’mon.

This represents a failure of parents and adults to engage the young in meaningful things, and it shows that we are abdicating our roles to the electronic nanny. This gives a whole new depth of meaning to the phrase “in loco parentis.”

This study should raise eyebrows even amongst atheists. Christopher Hitchens, Richard Dawkins and their ilk would be more than happy with God being relegated to the trash heap of irrelevance, but most atheists in intellectual history, from Sartre to Nietzche, at least held that the idea of God was important, even if they thought he didn’t exist. The results from the survey show an increased fascination in all things trivial.

Billy Bush on his radio show put it nicely tonight (even if he was being tongue-in-cheek): “kids–less TV, more reading.”

You know what, though? The last tidbit on kids wanting divorce to be banned is interesting. Geez, the Bible was right: not all lifestyle choices are equal. Some, especially in the areas of sexuality and relationships, are particularly destructive, and the kids’ answer shows that. Isn’t it odd that such an old book would get something like this right (end sarcasm)?

I don’t want to be a chicken little or an old-timer (“kids these days…”), but really, this is yet another gauntlet for adults charged with caring for youth (that’s all of us, btw). Will we pick it up? Will we care enough to get our acts together?

What do you think?

In addition to the articles linked above, some other related posts are:

Electronic Media Immerson: Some Suggestions

The Ethics of America’s Youth

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Electronic Media Immersion: Some Suggestions

Read parts one and two of this series here: I and II.

Albert Mohler and John Mark Reynolds both have excellent suggestions on how to get our electronic media habits under control. Mohler’s piece is especially pertinent to parents.  I recommend you read and devour both in their entirety. Read them here and here, respectively.

Like I mentioned a few days ago, this isn’t the beginning of the end of civilization.  All we need is a little wisdom and moderation. We just have to start thinking about what our minds and souls imbibe, that’s all.

But though this issue doesn’t mean the end of the world, it is very important. Afterall, the ones who are most negatively affected by the plugged in life–teenagers–are tomorrow’s leaders, teachers, and church pastors. We can’t afford continued neglect.

I will say that I struggle with this, especially since starting this blog. It has become quite a demanding mistress. I will need to develop more discipline if I am to avoid some of the pitfalls I noted in my last post. I struggle particularly with implementing Reynolds’ third suggestion. I’m constantly checking my blog, email, and stumbleupon page.

Like this article? Here are some other related articles:

32 Links to Build your Blogging Knowledge

Tips for Making Friends on Stumbleupon

Thoughts on a Technologically Saturated Life

The Ten Commandments of Blogging

Also, consider subscribing to this blog’s feed via RSS (You can subscribe in the sidebar at the top).


Distracted to Death

See part one of this series here.

Yesterday I blogged about a recent meta-analysis by CommonSense Media on the media consumption of children and teens.

Today I want to comment on ways that over exposure to media has hurt us and, more importantly, children and teenagers.

Immediately, when I suggest there could be negative effects of media, many think, “every time teachers, parents, and pundits get worried about something, nothing comes of it.”

Well, sometimes there’s a bit of truth to that, but in this case, as John Mark Reynolds suggests, a “tipping point” has been reached where we do have cause for concern.

Perhaps the biggest negative effect that electronic media has had on teenagers specifically is evident when you ask, “if teens are spending an average of 45 hours a week plugged in, what are they *not* spending time doing?” Answer: they are not spending time with their parents. This puts the TV, the internet, or the peer group “in loco parentis”.

Secondly, they aren’t reading, spending solitude time, or developing a devotional life. Its sad to see a myspace profile that has mounds and mounds of titles listed under the “movies” section, but the books section says something like, “ya, I don’t do books.” You can see this on teens’ and adults’ profiles, on Christians’ and non-Christians’ profiles.

Electronic media has had many other effects too.

Have you ever tried to have a worthwhile conversation with someone while he’s playing a video game or while he’s listening to his IPOD? If you have, then I’m willing to bet you have one word (at least) to describe that experience: frustrating.

I know what my students say: “but I can listen to my IPOD and interact with people just fine! Seriously, it helps me study.” Then why do people typically turn down the radio in their cars when they are trying to follow carefully crafted directions or when they want to concentrate on something?

I work with teenagers all the time, and I see the way such things affect them. When they are texting, or have their IPODS on, or whatever, they are in the classroom, but they aren’t really there. You catch my drift?

One could argue that they aren’t there no matter what, but I see evidence that this tendency to cognitively float around is only exacerbated by being plugged in. No matter what such IPOD junkies suggest, I see the proof, and I will die on that hill before I believe them.

Really, how could someone even suggest that, when they are on myspace, listening to their IPOD, watching TV, and instant messaging a friend (often at the same time!), that they can write a quality essay, just as quality as it would be if they were writing it undistracted? Such a thought is laughable. Sure, having soft music in the background might help out, but we’re talking about a whole different level of multitasking, folks.

There’s evidence that suggests that such multi-tasking changes the way the brian functions. One’s ability to follow a logical argument deteriorates, and it is easier to be manipulated by images and emotions. I’m telling you, even when they aren’t plugged in, folks, especially teens, who are immersed in media have a hard time settling. It comes with the age, of course, but again, electronic media exacerbates the phenomenon. When I start a lecture, I have about 30 seconds to get their attention. If I fail at that, they become bored and distracted, and they tune out.

It is very, very difficult to tune them into the deep things. Entertainment is their bottom line.

Dealing with silence is yet another hard task for the media saturated. I’ve talked with countless people who frequently use IPODS, and almost all of them state uncategorically that thinking in silence is difficult for them. Its almost like IPODS are an addictive drug.

A steady diet of electronic media changes how you relate to people too: ever take a gander at the comments section on blogs? Online communication doesn’t bode too well for civility. Its not a stretch to see that if someone socializes mostly online, that will affect how they relate to others in the real world too…and online is how many teenagers socialize these days.

Such coarse social relations online has even given rise to a new word: cyberbullying.

Also, there is a downside to blogging specifically. If a person’s main reading consumption is through blogs online, how will that affect their ability to read longer pieces, especially if that longer piece weaves a complicated logical argument?

Reynolds asks:

“Mental development takes time and practice. What if nobody takes the time? Could it be that we are marketing habits to young adults that are not helpful?”

Then he adds:

“Mental acuity and attention are skills that can degrade. If you don’t read a long book for a while, then it is harder to read a long book when you finally pick one up.”

I think he’s spot on. Blogs and other online media specialize in the quickie genre, where skimming is the norm. Readers tend to shy away from longer, more thoughtful pieces. Before I started Pugnacious, I blogged on myspace. In reaction to my blogs, I regularly received the comment, “I usually don’t read your stuff. It’s too long, and I just can’t do it.” This was in response to pieces that were no longer than this post.

If they say that about my posts, what are they to do when they encounter the Bible, or Homer, or Socrates? I weep for them.

What’s the solution to these negative effects? Obviously it isn’t to go Amish. Moderation is the key. This is the subject of tomorrow’s post!

Like this article? Here are some other related articles:

32 Links to Build your Blogging Knowledge

Tips for Making Friends on Stumbleupon

Thoughts on a Technologically Saturated Life

The Ten Commandments of Blogging

Also, consider subscribing to this blog’s feed via RSS (You can subscribe in the sidebar at the top).


45 Hours a Week

45 hours a week….kid_playing_video_game

The average work week?  No.  The average hours of sleep per week? No. The average time teenage boys spend thinking about girls per week? No. That number is much, much higher. Trust me. I was a teenage boy once. I still act like one from time to time.

That, according to a meta analysis of 173 studies on media consumption, is the number of hours *on average* that a child spends immersed in media each week.

Because I teach of teenagers, even if I didn’t examine the studies, I’d believe it. That number, by the way, dwarfs the number of hours on average that children spend with parents (around 15).

Technological media, from IPODS to cell phones, from the internet to video games, is everywhere. The current young generation has grown up being immersed in this stuff to the point that they often consider media consumption as an assumed right, rather than a moderated privilege.

Sometimes we uncritically assume the technical imperative (or at least something close to it): all technological advances are good and we must have them. Even if we don’t explicitly state this, far too often we implicitly think it and/or feel it.
The CommonSense Media analysis should give us pause, however. Actually, we should have paused to think about all this long ago.

Often, technological advances and inventions have advantages to them, but we often don’t realize that they come with a downside as well. This is true with even the most innocuous inventions. The light bulb and the harnessing of electricity, for example, both obviously had the advantage of, uh, light in the house, but the unforseen disadvantage was that families no longer had to congregate in a single room. Everyone now had ample opportunity to do their own thing in other rooms of the house. Now, this didn’t bring on the apocalypse, but it did make for less and less family time.

Another example is the invention of air conditioning. This drove folks inside into their houses, rather than out on the porch at night. Again, this is no reason to proclaim the sky is falling, but the effect it had was that it eroded neighbor time. Folks didn’t get to know their neighbors as well.

We often miss these unintended consequences of technology.

Just in case you are wondering, I’m no hypocritical luddite. I’m writing this on a blog, after all, and I first was alerted to the media study by Albert Mohler via his Podcast (read his recent blog entry on the subject here). The internet is wonderful. I’m very thankful also that I can get quality teaching and thinking on deep things through ITunes. I could go on and on about the benefits of technological advances in Media. I hope you will see by reading some of the related articles below that I’m a fan of social media and blogging.

We need to pause, though, to ask ourselves what media saturation is doing to us and, more importantly, to our kids.

Tomorrow I will post on the downsides of the most recent technological advances. On Wednesday, I will post on how we can manage our exposure to media such that we can maximize the benefits while minimizing the damaging effects. Thursday I will conclude with a note on how the blogging revolution has and can be positive.

Like this article? Here are some other related articles:

32 Links to Build your Blogging Knowledge

Tips for Making Friends on Stumbleupon

Thoughts on a Technologically Saturated Life

The Ten Commandments of Blogging

Also, consider subscribing to this blog’s feed via RSS (You can subscribe in the sidebar at the top)