Protecting children from the dangers of…

Young, redheaded girl wearing a colorful pink and coral striped top and pants holds television remote in a sunny, bright living room and smiles at what she is watching on tv. Her brother is in the background.

There has been a lot of violence in the world in the past few weeks — and many of our children have been watching it.

That’s not a good thing.

Between mainstream media and social media, violence reaches far past the places and people it directly affects. Whether it’s the latest shooting, the latest terrorist attack, or some other act of violence, television and other media can bring it into every home, every cell phone, and every computer. The recent rise in cell phone videos shared on social media — often raw, unedited, and shocking — has increased the prevalence and reach of violence even further.

Add to that the violence in movies — even G-rated movies — and video games and, as the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) said in their policy statement entitled Virtual Violence, “Media violence is woven into the fabric of American children’s lives.”

The last comprehensive assessment of “screen” violence was done in 1998, and it found that the typical child will have seen 8,000 murders and 100,000 other acts of violence (including rape and assault) before middle school. That was 18 years ago, 7 years before YouTube began and 9 years before the first iPhone was released. Just think what those numbers are now.

The AAP released the policy statement because they want people to understand that exposure to “virtual” violence, through news, social and entertainment media, can be bad for children. Multiple studies have shown that children exposed to violence may be more aggressive, and they may have behavioral problems. They may also become desensitized to violence, which may be the worst outcome — imagine a generation of children growing up thinking that violence is acceptable and unremarkable.

Every person is different; some are likely to be more affected by others. But as the policy statement points out, given how wide the exposure is, even just a small percentage can end up being a big effect. The example they give:

It’s attention and action that the pediatricians most want. Here are some of their suggestions:

  • Pediatricians and parents should think about the “media diet” of children. What children watch on screens is just as important — if not more important — than how much time they spend in front of screens.
  • Parents need to be mindful of what their children see and what games they play. To the extent that it’s possible, parents should try to watch and play with their children. With older children, especially those with computers and smart phones, it’s important to talk about what they are seeing and doing.
  • Parents need to be mindful of their own media habits. They should not only set a good example, but also be careful of what they watch when their children are nearby.
  • Parents need to understand that children, especially young children, can’t always distinguish between fantasy and reality. “It’s just a movie” may not do the trick. Children under 6 shouldn’t be exposed to virtual violence at all.
  • “First person shooter” games, in which killing is the central theme and the goal, are not appropriate for children of any age.
  • Federal, state, and local legislators should work to provide parents and caregivers more, and more reliable, information about how much violence is in all different kinds of media
  • The entertainment industry (and news industry) should be more responsible about how it portrays violence. It should limit gratuitous violence and glamorization of violence, and when violence is portrayed, the pain and loss suffered should be portrayed as well.

This isn’t about making our media free of violence. It’s about being aware of the effect that violence can have on our children and doing everything we can to make that effect as small as possible. Because nothing — no news update, no popular movie, or any video game — will ever be as important as our children.135

Bible verses for today’s meditation and inspiration: Matthew E. McLaren

The days of our lives are seventy years; and if by reason of strength they are eighty years, Yet their boast is only labor and sorrow; For it is soon cut off, and we fly away. Psalm 90:10 (NKJV)

So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. Isaiah 41:10 NIV 

But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint. Isaiah 40:31 NIV 

My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. Psalm 73:26 NIV 

I can do all this through him who gives me strength. Philippians 4:13 NIV

He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Isaiah 40:29 NIV

That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Corinthians 12:10 NIV 

For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline. 2 Timothy 1:7 NIV 

But the Lord is faithful, and he will strengthen you and protect you from the evil one. 2 Thessalonians 3:3 NIV 

Look to the Lord and his strength; seek his face always. 1 Chronicles 16:11 NIV 

I love you, Lord, my strength.  The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. Psalm 18:1-2 NIV 

But I will sing of your strength, in the morning I will sing of your love; for you are my fortress, my refuge in times of trouble. Psalm 59:16 NIV 

Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong. 1 Corinthians 16:13 NIV 

Ah, Sovereign Lord, you have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and outstretched arm. Nothing is too hard for you. Jeremiah 32:17 NIV

The Sovereign Lord is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to tread on the heights. Habakkuk 3:19 NIV 

For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Hebrews 4:12 | NIV

 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Ephesians 6:10 NIV 

Yours, Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the majesty and the splendor, for everything in heaven and earth is yours. Yours, Lord, is the kingdom; you are exalted as head over all. 1 Chronicles 29:11 NIV 

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