There is a profound tension between the wish of Christian and other parents to teach values to their children (especially teens) and the tremendous power of the popular media to insinuate itself into the privacy of the home and manipulate immature minds. Never before in history have human beings been so exposed and unprotected from the manipulations of faceless, unscrupulous promoters and producers. How can parents relate to this without seeking to either discourage art or disconnect their children from the real world in ways that may end up being crippling?
A survey recently released by the Barna Group sheds some light on how difficult this is for the average Christian family. Four out of five Christian parents buy DVDs of popular movies for their children and 26 percent are not happy with what is on the DVDs they buy. Six in ten buy music CDs for their children and 33 percent are worried about these CDs. Half of them buy video games for their kids and 39 percent are concerned about these games. Half buy popular magazines for their young people and 31 percent worry about the content of these publications. A third get computer software for their kids and 24 percent are not comfortable with the content. In each case you can see that the majority of the parents who do purchase popular media for their children are really worried about the things they are getting for their kids, but they go ahead and do it anyway. Why?
Parents are completely manipulated by the publishers. These things are promoted directly to the children. The strategies are designed to get word-of-mouth and peer pressure going among children and teens, and the parents realize that if they take try to impose a total ban, then the older children will simply get access to these materials through covert methods.
There are a couple of strategies that can be used to counter this manipulation, but Barna didn't ask about these nor try to measure how widespread their use is or the perceptions of their effectiveness. One is for parents to view content with their children and help the child develop critical skills and make choices based on the values that the parents want the child to develop. Another is to find publishers that provide materials consistent with your values and support them buy purchasing those materials for your children. The free market can work if parents will work it.