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4 ways to raise discerning children in an entertainment-crazed culture

It never was a good idea to let children watch television without some parental input or supervision, but more and more, it’s becoming a downright bad one.

The series Andi Mack in October became the first Disney Channel series to feature an openly gay main character when Cyrus – a 13-year-old male character – confided that he has romantic feelings for boys. It was but the latest “gay moment” for the Disney Channel, which in June aired an episode of The Lodge in which a minor character came out as gay.

It’s not just the gay issue, though, that should concern parents.

A 2016 study by the Parents Television Council found that since 1997, G-rated primetime television programs had been virtually eliminated and TV-PG programs had decreased by 38 percent – with the number of TV-14 programs skyrocketing. Meanwhile, weapon-related violence increased by 17 percent from 2011 to 2014 and nudity (real or pixelated) jumped 93 percent during the same time frame. No doubt, foul language is on the rise, too.

But we don’t need studies to confirm what parents already know: TV content rottener than ever. Who among us hasn’t dove for the remote when an offensive commercial aired in the middle of an innocent program, or when a promising television show suddenly turned raunchy?

One option is to toss the TV set in the trash can. But if that’s too extreme, here are a few more ideas:

1. Teach our children to be discerning. Sure, we can just “turn it off,” but Scripture wants us to do much more (Deuteronomy 6:6-7). We must teach our children the whole counsel of God – and how it applies to life. After all, we want our children to make the right decisions when we aren’t in the room.

2. Acknowledge it’s not harmless entertainment. Consider: What is Disney’s goal in inserting gay characters? It is to normalize homosexuality. It’s virtually an advertisement. No doubt, some teens and children are mature enough to watch such content and remain firm in their faith. Others, though, are not. Only parents can decide.

3. Prepare our children for a spiritual battle. I don’t want my child’s education about adult issues to occur while watching the Disney Channel – or any other channel. God tells me that’s my role (Proverbs 22:6). My goal while raising my nine, five and two year olds is to simultaneously protect them from the world while preparing them for the world. I am to equip them with the armor of God (Ephesians 6:10-18) – guarding their innocence while readying them for adulthood. I am not raising my children in a bubble. But I’m also not throwing them to the wolves.

4. Consider alternatives. Look, I gave up on broadcast and cable television long ago. Nothing surprises me. That’s why my family has opted for streaming alternatives: the good shows on Netflix, along with services like the Dove Channel, PureFlix, ClearPlay and VidAngel. That way, we get to decide on the content. And it’s a lot more inspiring, too.

— Michael Foust

Michael Foust is the father of four small children and blogs at MichaelFoust.com