In this post, we continue our discussion of the virtue of discernment by noting that cultivating discernment requires guides. Listening to scripture and the words—spoken and written, past and present—of wise and mature Christians is necessary for us to grow in this virtue. Relying solely on our own wits is never a good idea, and when we consider how to navigate digital culture for ourselves and our children, we must recognize our utter inability to stay ahead of the digital deluge. At Trinitas we highly recommend a couple sources—Plugged In and Protect Young Eyes (PYE)—to help families make good choices regarding things to read, watch, listen to, and play.
Speaking of choices, we’re drawing your attention to the disturbingly popular show you may or may not have heard of yet—Squid Game is #1 in 90 countries. We recommend that you read reviews by PYE and Plugged In. Examples like this series and the recent TikTok “trend” of stealing and vandalizing school property to post as “trophies” make it clear that parents must be aware of what their children are viewing and doing online or even just hearing and observing from other kids being online.
Images tend to stay with us for a long time, some for our entire lives, and they impact our thoughts, feelings, and choices for better or worse. Aristotle recognized the importance of forming children from the time they are very young to desire those things that are good. And Proverbs 22:6 tells us to “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.” It is much harder to course correct when a child is older. It’s not unlike introducing broccoli to a teenager who has had a steady diet of junk food, though it’s arguably a much bigger deal.
God designed us to long for him and all his goodness and to be repelled and grieved by sin. Sinful human nature, however, is often intrigued, entertained, and even excited by sin. If a child is surrounded by good and beautiful stories, he or she develops a taste for those and an aversion for the opposite. By contrast, a child whose entertainment involves things that are sinful and ugly may start to lose the capacity to enjoy what is far better. Good things may simply seem boring or pale in comparison to what he or she has come to think of as “cool”. Saying “no” to those things that are contrary to God’s design is much easier if it starts early in a child’s life and if the “no’s” are accompanied with many “yes’s”. Yes to time with friends, yes to good books and movies and music, yes to playing outdoors, yes to quiet time, yes to Lego and art projects and board games. Over time, and with effort, the child will learn to desire and choose what is better.
Returning to the topic of digital life—a discerning strategy for navigating the online world is to cultivate desires for good things that are not online. Turn the screens off. When they are on, cultivate the habit of making better choices. Model good choices for your children yourself. Hollywood labels things “mature” that are anything but mature by God’s standards for human flourishing. PYE concludes that Squid Game is not good for teens and kids, but it’s not good for adults either. And, if you’re watching it, your kids will want to watch it as well.