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Plugged-In Parenting comes at a time when parents find themselves between a rock and a hard place. They want to protect their children from the increasingly violent and sexualized content of movies, TV, the Internet, and music as well as cyberbullying and obsessive cell phone texting. But they fear that simply “laying down the law” will alienate their kids. Can parents stay connected to the media while staying connected to God and to each other? This book makes a powerful case for teaching kids media discernment,...
Plugged-In Parenting comes at a time when parents find themselves between a rock and a hard place. They want to protect their children from the increasingly violent and sexualized content of movies, TV, the Internet, and music as well as cyberbullying and obsessive cell phone texting. But they fear that simply “laying down the law” will alienate their kids. Can parents stay connected to the media while staying connected to God and to each other? This book makes a powerful case for teaching kids media discernment, but doesn’t stop there. It shows how to use teachable moments, evidence from research and pop culture, Scripture, questions, parental example, and a written family entertainment constitution to uphold biblical standards without damaging the parent-child relationship. Tyndale House Publishers
My cell phone began its vibrating "ring," but this was an important meeting. I let the call go to voice mail. When I listened to the message shortly afterward, the caller was insistent: "Bob, call me back as soon as possible." It was a man I'll call John (not his real name).
I dialed his mobile number. "What's up, John?"
He explained that as he'd walked through his living room the previous evening, he'd noticed his 15-year-old daughter watching a Disney Channel program he didn't know much about. But it made him uncomfortable. He angrily ordered her to turn off the television, saying, "I just don't like the boy-girl thing" on that show.
His daughter promptly burst into tears and grudgingly turned off the TV.
But that was just the beginning. Soon the incident escalated into the family version of World War III.
John's wife, disagreeing with his decision, heatedly and in no uncertain terms expressed how she felt. A fight ensued, with both spouses insisting they were handling the situation appropriately. But before heading off to bed irritated, the couple agreed on one thing: John would call me in the morning and ask my opinion about the whole matter. Both would abide by my decision.
I would be the tiebreaker. No pressure!
I'll tell you where I came down later in this book. At this point, I just want to assure you that family entertainment-related battles are common—although most parents don't call me to arbitrate them.
You know the kind of clash I mean. Perhaps it's arguing over how much time your preteen or teen spends on social networking sites like Facebook or Twitter. Maybe it's your daughter's decision to watch that horror film at last weekend's slumber party even though she'd promised to call if that temptation ever arose. Or it could be borrowing your 16-year-old son's car, turning on the ignition, and getting blasted with profanities from the CD he left in the stereo, a disc you had no idea he even owned.
So here's the question: Since disagreements over what to watch, play, text, listen to, click on, download, and read cause so much conflict, is all the stress worth it? Why not just adopt a "Don't ask, don't tell" policy when it comes to your family's media diet?
To Tell the Truth
At this point you may be thinking, I know where this is going. This guy has an ax to grind. He wants to make the media look as bad as possible. That's how he makes a living. How can I trust him?
I understand. I've faced that challenge before.
Trust was an issue recently when my wife Leesa and I were looking for a used car with decent gas mileage. Turning to Craigslist, we found one. As I read the online listing, I was determined that if the vehicle was as advertised, I wanted it. When I called, a young man answered and explained that he was helping his mother sell her car. What I didn't know was that the mother and son had emigrated from China just four years before. The teenage son had picked up English rather quickly, but his mother had not.
"Well, would you take a personal check?" I asked.
"No," was the response.
"Well, we're coming up anyway and we'll figure it out later," I said. At Leesa's suggestion I ran to our bank and withdrew the cash.
Arriving several hours later to inspect the vehicle, we saw it had been represented accurately. "Yes, we want it," I declared, "and I have the cash to seal the deal."
The young man said I'd need to talk to his mother at work. Going to her place of employment, I told her I wanted to buy the car. Despite the language barrier, she clearly understood. But when I pulled the wad of cash from my pocket and explained how we would be paying for it that very day, the deal suddenly was in jeopardy.
"Could be ... counterfeit," she blurted.
Standing there with more cash in my pocket than I'd ever carried before, all in $100 bills, I had a major dilemma: How could I convince this lady that I wasn't trying to cheat her, that the money was genuine? I tried assuring her the bills were real, that I'd just gone to the bank. I smiled politely and tried to look like an honest man (a challenge in itself). Nothing seemed to work.
In broken English she explained that in China it was very common for people to cheat others using counterfeit currency. As a relatively new person in the United States, she was determined not to get swindled.
I can't blame her. Fortunately, Leesa soon joined me after doing some shopping. Instantly the Chinese lady trusted her—not me—and said she would accept our cash and sign the paperwork!
I tell that story because in this book I'm doing my best to offer what's real, genuine, and true. But I'm afraid some readers won't buy it, believing what I'm offering is counterfeit.
Maybe you, like the Chinese lady, have had experiences that make it hard to trust anyone who comes bearing a pocketful of $100 bills—or arguments and warnings and advice about how the media might affect your kids. Perhaps you've made some assumptions about whether your family's media diet really matters, and whether it's worth the stress of making that diet a healthier one. Maybe you've even been believing a myth or two or three.
Since I can't bring my wife along to convince you, may I ask that you read this book with an open mind? I'll try to earn your trust. My message may not always be pleasant—but it's the real thing.
The Waliszewski Experience
Speaking of honesty, I have to say the following in the interest of full disclosure: As our children grew up, my wife and I seldom battled with them over entertainment decisions. I'm thankful for that, but realize I run the risk of alienating and discouraging you if your experience is different. You might feel our family somehow lived above the fray—something you believe is totally unrealistic for you. I hope you won't see it that way; instead, I hope you'll take heart that although entertainment can be a battleground, it doesn't have to be a bloody one.
I believe the major reason my wife and I didn't regularly bicker with our children over media decisions was our effort to follow the principles I'll share in this book. But we weren't exempt, either.
For instance, when our daughter Kelsey was in middle school, a certain R rated film came out that was the talk of her classmates—and the rest of the nation. As R rated films go, it was on the lighter side, but still contained enough objectionable content that we just weren't comfortable letting her see it. According to our daughter, "all" of her friends had viewed this particular movie (which of course wasn't true, but many had). She was convinced she should see it, too.
If you've dealt with a similar situation, you can imagine how Kelsey felt—that her status as a maturing young adult was on the line. She certainly didn't want a reputation for being the girl who was only allowed to watch Cinderella, TV Land reruns, and movies filmed in the 1940s and '50s.
I'd love to say this challenge had a happy ending at the time. But it didn't. Even though many, many Christian parents were allowing their kids to see this one, we believed we were making the right decision by putting our foot down. There was no compromise that would make her happy and allow us to stay true to our values. The answer was no. End of story.
Well, not quite. Kelsey is in her early twenties now; recently my wife and I talked with her about her growing-up years. I asked her to describe the most difficult "media moment" in her upbringing. She recalled the situation I've just described. Then I asked, "Knowing what you know now, what would you change if you had to live this time all over again?"
"Not a thing," she replied. Chuckling, she recalled how badly she'd wanted us to let her see that film. But she's glad now that we drew a line in the sand and didn't waver. Whew! It took almost a decade to discover that even from our daughter's perspective we made the right decision.
Setting healthy entertainment boundaries in your home may mean you won't see much buy-in from your kids—at least in the present. But stay the course. Don't waver. A better time probably is coming.
Why is this important? Because navigating today's entertainment successfully is a big deal even though we live in a culture that says it's not. For millions, media decisions are made as casually as buying a gallon of milk or a loaf of bread. I can't tell you the number of deeply troubling R and PG-13 movie screenings I've attended that included parents with young children—even toddlers and those around four or five! Sadly, these parents don't have the gumption to walk out and take their children with them when things decline from risqué to soft porn or from violent to gruesome. I can't even imagine the battles these children will face with issues like sexuality as they grow older.
Chances are you already know, deep down, that helping your kids make wise entertainment choices is important. But it's easy for many of us to avoid taking action. That's because we've latched on to some convenient untruths that seem to excuse us from tackling our responsibilities as parents.
Media Myths that Matter
As ridiculous as it now seems, there was a time I believed I could beat Billie Jean King in a game of tennis if given the opportunity. This wacky thought occurred to me during the much publicized 1973 match between King and Bobby Riggs.
That wasn't the first time I'd made a questionable assumption. After being exposed to Greek mythology in kindergarten, I became convinced that human beings could fly if given the right amount of feathers (never mind that I'd never seen anyone do that). I also believed that if I read a book by candlelight, I would eventually lose my vision.
All of us can point to things we once believed that we now know are totally false. I'm glad that many years ago I accepted the fact that I'll never be able to fly. Nor do I stand even the slightest chance of returning the serve of Billie Jean King—even in her later years—much less coming out victorious in a match. And I've read many things by low light; my eyesight isn't what it used to be, but I can't blame the lack of lumens.
Living successfully involves the ongoing process of sorting out fact from fiction. There are several myths about the impact of entertainment, the nature of biblical discernment, and the parent's role. Some sound quite appealing. A few may appear to work. Others may look spiritual on the surface. But believing them can have unintended consequences. I'd like to highlight seven of them.
Myth #1: "It's No Big Deal"
Focus on the Family received a letter from Larry, a Michigan father, who accompanied his correspondence with 13 CDs. All but one were stickered with Parental Advisory warnings. Among other things, Larry wrote this: "My son is hooked on degrading, offensive music. After 14 years of Christian schooling, church, and Sunday school, he is rejecting Jesus and Christianity—please get the word out [before] more children fall for this God-insulting music."
Ask Larry if it's true that a child's media diet is no big deal. I guarantee he'll eloquently make his case to the contrary. For him, and many parents like him, this myth was shattered by personal experience and heartache.
Can the choices Larry's son made regarding music be blamed for his abandoning the faith? Yes and no. Music is a powerful influence. But there may have been other factors, too—like peer pressure, his relationship with his parents, a traumatic loss, a lack of real friends, bullying, poor self-image, experimentation with drugs or the occult, a sexual relationship, or false theology. But I agree with Larry that, at the minimum, his son's media choices played not only a role, but a significant role.
Maybe your child is not battling the same issues as Larry's son. But the chances are great that your young person's faith has been marred somewhat by what he or she listens to, watches, or plays—if those media choices lean toward the unsavory side.
If you do have a child like Larry's in your home, you know that any attempt to "meddle" can get messy. You've heard the advice that we should pick our battles carefully—and we should. Is this one to skip?
I don't think so. Not only should we stand our ground; we need to come fully armored and prepared for the long haul. Entertainment really is a big deal—especially when it has immediate consequences and eternal ramifications.
Myth #2: "Just Get 'Em Saved"
Many parents—though they wouldn't state it quite this way—believe that if they can just bring their young person to Christ, good media choices will naturally follow.
It's true that some spiritual conversions include new convictions about objectionable entertainment. But frequently this isn't the case. When most kids accept Jesus as Savior, it's their first step in a lifetime of maturing spiritually. It's not a magic, protective dynamic. Nor does the salvation experience impart a new understanding of media, any more than it imparts the ability to windsurf, fly-fish, or snow ski.
In fact, it may come as a surprise that evangelical teens seem to consume media much as their non-Christian peers do—at least according to a limited number of studies. One such study appeared in The Barna Report 1992-1993, making the disturbing discovery that "Christian young adults are more likely than others to have watched MTV in the past week" (42% compared to 33% respectively). More recently, a February 2011 online survey of 240 ethnically diverse 10- to 15-year-olds—admittedly a small sampling—found that evangelical tweens were more likely to have viewed an R rated movie in the past three months than their non-evangelical peers were (35% compared to 26% respectively). This survey also found that one of every four evangelical tweens watched MTV's Jersey Shore, 38 percent said they watch the sexually obsessed Two and a Half Men, and 35 percent viewed Glee—roughly the same percentage as non-Christian tweens.
At best, beginning a relationship with God helps the new believer want to please Him more deeply. That can bring a new openness to honoring Him with choices that never seemed important before. But it's far from automatic.
Myth #3: "They'll Learn by Osmosis"
Many moms and dads seem to assume there isn't a whole lot to teach about making wise entertainment decisions. They seldom bring the subject up and have never had a pointed conversation about media and its influence.
If asked, they'd admit that they've done little in the way of verbal training. For them, it's all about modeling. They believe that if they practice media discernment themselves, their children will soak in all the right ingredients to make wise entertainment choices.
I can't underscore too many times how important setting a positive example is. But it's simply not enough. Our children also need to hear regularly from our own lips how important it is to guard our hearts. They need to understand from us verbally what's expected, and why the Lord's heart aches when we disobey and dishonor His commands.
Myth #4: "The Youth Group Can Do It"
A lot of parents feel that if they get their youngster to regularly attend the youth group at their church, that son or daughter will become media savvy. It's true that some youth leaders are quite knowledgeable about media discernment and teach along those lines at youth group meetings. But a number of them don't.
Frankly, some youth leaders simply don't get it when it comes to honoring Christ with their personal entertainment choices. As a result, they don't teach on the subject. I know this firsthand; as a former youth pastor myself, I was halfway through my youth ministry "career" before the Lord got hold of this area of my life.
A rock-solid youth group can make a huge, positive difference in your young person's life. But you can't assume this particular job is getting done. I'd suggest sharing a cup of coffee with your church's youth pastor to find out his convictions on a number of issues—media included.
Myth #5: "I Survived, So My Kids Will, Too"
Plenty of parents can recall making all kinds of poor decisions regarding entertainment during their middle and high school years. Yet somehow they survived the onslaught. These parents put a lot of confidence in their kids' resiliency.
While all that sounds wonderful, there are no guarantees about "bouncing back" in the Bible or in the world around us. Some young people—like Larry's son—turn their backs on God because of the influence of media in their lives. A number of these eventually return, but others tragically don't.
Keep in mind, too, that times have changed since your childhood and adolescence. Much of today's entertainment is darker, more sexually explicit, profane, and gory than what was popular when you were growing up.
Excerpted from Plugged-In Parenting by BOB WALISZEWSKI Copyright © 2011 by Focus on the Family. Excerpted by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
part 1 Deciding Where You Stand as a Parent
1 Is This Stress Necessary? 3
2 Answering Your Child's Objections 19
3 Doing Your Child a Favor 41
part 2 Making Rules Without Making Enemies
4 It Starts with the Heart 63
5 Preparing Them with Principles 81
6 Ten Things You Can Do to End Fights over Family Entertainment 97
7 Your Family Entertainment Constitution 111
8 Frantically Asked Questions 123
part 3 Keeping the Peace and Passing It on
9 Getting Technology on Your Side 153
10 Reaching Out to Other Families 171
Posted September 1, 2011
Author , Bob Waliszewski wrote this great book called "Plugged In Parenting." This book is all about how parents find themselves between their kids and a culture that breeds an ever growing media driven society for children. Parents want to be able to protect their children from bullying, sexual content, texting, profane language and violence, but this culture allows children to get anything at their finger tips. This is an awesome book for parents. I highly recommend it! It allows parents to understand how to connect to media and allows great discussion between parents and children.
I think this book will make parents aware of how much screen time their kids are having and will allow them to have an open discussion. It makes many valid points on different types of Media and how parents need to be actively aware of what their child is watching, listening and seeing. This book is parent friendly and written with godly concepts in mind. The book also helps you navigate unchartered waters such as dealing with schools when they show a movie that you do not want your student to see. He gives advice for both the parent and child. Bob does this with many other topics that arise. This book is great and allows for an open discussion between parents, children and God about making appropriate entertainment options.
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Posted August 11, 2011
Plugged-In Parenting is a great book for parents or to be parents. It's like a guide to it. It's a great book that teaches an informs parents about things in parenting plus media stuff with parenting. A great book for parents!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted August 8, 2011
After reading Plugged-In Parenting by Bob Waliszewski, I now know there are more better ways to supervise my teenagers' screen time and entertainment choices. With book sections on "Deciding Where You Stand" (as the parent), "Making Rules Without Making Enemies," and "Keeping the Peace and Passing It On", the author shares his principles and possible scenarios for implementing them. The author's conversational-style of writing make this book easy to read and understand. It is as he is sitting in the room with you answering any questions that may arise. I enjoyed this book and was able to garner better ways to oversee my teenagers' entertainment choices. I like the way he teaches us to look at the heart-issue, instead of just making rules. Since I am a rule maker, this is something I really needed to hear. He guides you through the principles of why choices are good or bad, and how to work with your family to minimize arguments over them. Bob Waliszewski includes a chapter on the technology of today that our youth are using. He discusses the different types, cyber bullying, appropriateness of its uses, and how to monitor their time on the electronics. Overall, this book gives parents a good starting point to raising "media-savvy kids with love, not war." My star rating 4.5 out of 5 stars. Tyndale House Publishers has provided me with a complimentary copy of this book for my honest review.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted July 16, 2011
Plugged in Parenting: How to Raise Media-Savvy Kids with Love, Not War is a book for parents on how to navigate the world of technology that sometimes seems foreign to adults. In this book Bob Waliszewski does not lay definite rules of "Good" and "Bad" for media, but suggests parents get involved with their children's choices of websites, video games, and even texting. One thing he didn't mention was books. I know children and teens don't read today like they once did, but books still send messages, good or bad, and I'm sure the author believes this or he wouldn't have penned a book himself!
As the book began, I thought it was going to be one where the parents make the rules and lay down the law. In fact, I still thought this a couple chapters in, but then it seemed to take a change. One thing the author suggested was a family media contract where any new media must be approved of by the parents, and if it doesn't meet the guidelines agreed upon in advance, the child is out the new CD/video game/DVD, and also is out the money they spent on that item.
Waliszewski gives advice on how to deal with situations when schools or other parents want to show a movie you don't approve of. He gives advice for both parents and the child in that situation.
This book is adaptable, so it will be relevant in a few years as it is today. Just because there is some yet-to-be-invented media down the road won't make the principles of this book any less relevant because he discusses how to have an open and honest dialog with your children so they learn good decision making skills about entertainment choices.
FTC disclosure: I received a copy of this book from the publisher for review. The opinions of it are my own.
Posted July 30, 2011
No text was provided for this review.