Read an Excerpt
Guard Their Minds:
Aim the Lamp
Merely having an open mind is nothing. The object of opening the mind, as of opening the mouth, is to shut it again on something solid.
G. K. Chesterton
The young man shuffled into our offices looking as if he had lost his way home. His head was tucked deeply between his shoulders. Meeting us for the first time, he wouldn't dare look us in the eyes. Softly, carefully, he introduced himself as David and stated, very plainly, that he was at the end of his rope. He needed help. Something was wrong. Something deep. Something secret. Until now.
In the safety of our offices, David told us about his struggle with sexual addiction. Where many young men brag about and exaggerate their virile encounters with the opposite sex, David wasn't at all proud of what he had done. Clenching the sides of his chair, he told the details of his living nightmare. Only a year before, he had logged onto the Internet one night to read movie reviews and check the scores of college basketball games. On one of the Web sites, he noticed an enticing link to another site, offering pictures of swimsuit models. "Innocent enough," he told himself, not knowing that this simple step would lead to the greatest struggle of his life.
Like most young men, David felt as though he shouldn't dig deeper, but the pull was stronger than his resolve. Soft porn led to hard-core porn, hard-core porn led to an addiction that dominated his life. Night after night, he logged onto his computer and hosted thousands of pornographic images, unable to stop himself. He was laden with guilt and sometimes would stay off the computer for a day or so. But he'd always go back. He couldn't quit, or wouldn't quit. Regardless, he didn't quit, and now this drive was controlling his life.
After a while, the images weren't enough. David began clicking into live chat rooms to talk about sex with other people. Then, one cold December night, he took a step into the world he had promised himself he would never enter. During a chat room session that night, he was invited to meet a girl, live and in person. He told himself it was a bad idea and tried not to think about it. An hour passed. Then he told himself it was a good idea. The battle raged in his mind for days, until he found himself standing at her door. . . .
Over the next several months, David's world changed. He began to experiment with sex with a variety of people he met online. After every encounter he wanted to stop, but he also wanted more. Finally, he found his way into our office. "I wish I had never logged on," he sobbed, tears rolling down his cheeks. "I wish computers had never been invented." For three hours, we talked with him, prayed with him, and constructed a plan to help him.
That day, the power of images was clear. That day, there was no debate over the impact of certain forms of entertainment. David, and thousands like him, can tell you, without a doubt, that the things we see affect the things we do.
Who Raises Our Kids -- Us or the Media?
Within hours of the Littleton tragedy, parents, lawmakers, and newspaper columnists were blaming the entertainment media for the massacre. All the usual suspects were lined up, from Marilyn Manson to Natural Born Killers to violent video games such as Doom. Of course, the reason for the tragedy in Colorado lies much deeper and is much more complex than video games and R-rated movies, but the heart-wrenching event reminded us all of the ancient proverb: "Our eyes are the window to our souls."
Philosophers, educators, psychologists, and theologians are constantly revising their opinions of the impact of what we see and hear. Much of formal education is based on the influence of books and videos. We have invested billions of dollars to create interesting ways of providing information to young people. Though the debate continues on how much these things affect us, we all know the truth: input, whether from books, music videos, the Internet, or a friend, is what forms us. We are influenced by the ideas we've assimilated.
Given the current technological and entertainment onslaught, the fact that input shapes us means two different things: first, it means that we are living in the greatest age in the history of the world because so much information is available; and second, it means we are living in the most dangerous age in the history of the world. Consider this: in a single day, a young person can sit in Barnes and Noble reading The Grapes of Wrath for a couple of hours, then head over to the Cineplex and watch the latest Quentin Tarantino flick, where the women are sex objects and the men are greedy, murderous fools (but the movie is a comedy), then go home, turn up the digital stereo and log onto the Internet, where they can either finish research for their John Steinbeck essay or, just as easily, download pornographic pictures or learn how to make a bomb.
What are we, as parents, to do? We want our teens to be able to use all the educational and entertainment tools available to them, but how do we monitor their choices? How can we ensure that our kids read the right books, see the right movies, listen to the right music, and use the Internet wisely?
Do we ostracize them from all entertainment? No. Do we trust them to make good choices away from home? Sometimes.
These are perplexing questions, and there is a host of experts available to answer them. After situations like Littleton, print media is filled with the typical articles and statistics on how to control your kids, how to restrict their access to sensory input, how to get them into counseling when they go astray. This information is helpful, but we have to remember that kids, fundamentally, are raised by their parents. That may sound trite, but in this generation, it is profound. We are the ones who must be there for them. Know them. Love them. Guide them. Parenting is a full-time job, and it requires constant effort. This conclusion is true whether you are reacting to a tragedy like Littleton or living out a normal week, and it is certainly true when dealing with entertainment choices.