Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Generation M

A new study was published today, called "Generation M: Media in the Lives of 8-18 Year-olds". You can check out the whole report here. The study was based on 8-18 year olds, (a pretty relevant age for most of you readers, right?) sampling more than 2000 students on their habits of music, TV, movies, video games, computers and books. I found it quite interesting, although I don't think I spent enough time reading it. What I did read was intruiging. Here are some of the highlights that piqued my interest:
- Almost 75% of US kids live in homes that contain three or more TV sets.
- Fewer (participants) live in homes where an attempt is made to regulate media behavior than live in homes where no such attempt is made.

ie - more kids live without set boundaries when it comes to media.
- Young people in the US inhabit an environment that is not just media rich - it is media saturated.
-Despite concerns that parents often express about the impact of media on their children, the kids themselves do not report much parental effort to monitor or curb
their media consumption.
- In homes where there is some attempt to control amount of viewing, content viewed, or both, kids watch less TV, play video games less, listen to less music and spend less time on the computer. They also read more.

A few things come to mind as I think about this a bit. First, as if there were any doubt before this study, our culture is media saturated. I suspect you knew this way before reading it here. However, this fact should be a key component of how we do ministry to students. It is paramount that we are always considering how we minister based on the culture and saturation that our kids are involved in constantly. Does that mean you have to always show a video clip? I don't think so, but I think it does mean that when you do, it better be captivating and you better make good use of it.
Secondly, it sounds like the majority of students do not have any kind of boundaries set for media consumption. Not only that, it sounds to me like most students today do not have the learned skills to critically assess the media that they are constantly exposed to. (And I do mean 'learned skill.') Nor do they have someone who is modelling that for them. There is a minority of parents, mentors, and youthworkers that are teaching kids to assess the messages that they are getting from music and film, rather than the majority. There are kids that think reality is how they see it in certain movies. There are messages in movies that are taken as truth and principle.
Thirdly, I admit that I'm kind of torn. Most recently, I have felt like the Church needs to engage the culture we are in, including the elements of pop culture. We need have an awareness of current films, music, advances in consumer technology - especially as we seek to minister to students - so that we can reasonably engage people where they are at. Don't get me wrong. Our job is not to be hip. It's not about being cool or having the latest gadget. But I think some of it is about understanding the language and paradigms that our culture is using. Is there a danger in understanding our media saturated culture too much? Maybe there is a line between understanding our media saturated culture too much. Maybe it has to do with what we saturate ourselves in, the latest movies, music and trends, versus the Scriptures, the living Word that God breathed.
Check out the study for yourself, I hope that you gain some good insight regarding student ministry from it.

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