Despite concern over the negative influence of media on young people, Christian parents are likely to spend more than $1 billion on media products this Christmas season, a new survey showed.
Seventy-eight percent of Christian parents had purchased DVDs of movies and TV programs in the past year for their teenagers and 87 percent had purchased DVDs for their children under 13, the latest Barna Group study found. Yet 26 percent of them did not feel comfortable with the DVD products they purchased.
About six out of 10 parents bought music CDs for their teen children but one out of every three of them had concerns about the content. Also, slightly more than half of all Christian parents had purchased video games for their children yet nearly half (46 percent) of parents of teens admitted to concerns about the content of those games.
Christian parents who were generally the least comfortable with the content of the media products purchased were non-whites and parents involved in a house church, according to the survey, which was released Monday. Those most comfortable were single parents, mothers and parents least active in practicing their faith. Moreover, the study found that the more media consumed by the parent, the more comfortable they were with all forms of media they bought for their children.
The survey results come at a time when prominent youth leader Ron Luce of Teen Mania says for the first time in American history, youth are saturated with media influence.
And media culture today is more sexualized – with point and click pornography – and more violent than ever.
The Parents Television Council (PTC), a non-profit organization that focuses on family-friendly television programming, reported earlier this year that television violence has increased 75 percent since 1998 and that the increase may pose a threat to children who may mimic what they see.
"Millions of Christian parents want to appear to be relevant in their children's eyes, and to provide gifts that fit within the mainstream of postmodern society," George Barna, lead researcher of the latest study, noted. "The problem is that many of the entertainment products that meet those criteria conflict with the moral precepts of the Christian faith. Parents have to make a choice as to what is more important: pleasing their kids' taste and sensibilities, or satisfying God's standards as defined in the Bible. When the decision made is to keep their children happy, the Christian parent is often left with a pit in their stomach."
Among other media purchases that Christian parents had purchased for their children were magazines (51 percent), with 31 percent saying they were not very comfortable with the content. Thirty-nine percent bought their teens computer software although 24 percent were not comfortable with the software.
Researcher Barna noted that selecting appropriate Christmas gifts is "a microcosm of the spiritual tension millions of Christian adults wrestle with."
"Many Christian parents are striving to serve two conflicting masters: society and God. They refuse to believe that they cannot satisfy both," he said. "Sadly, this Christmas season will produce enormous stress for numerous Christian parents who don't want to disappoint either God or their children, but whose ultimate choices will disappoint both God and themselves, while providing gifts that are not in the best interests of their children. For Christians, the Christmas season should be a time of celebration and appreciation of the life of Jesus Christ. Instead, that joy is being minimized by the pressure and confusion introduced by our focus on material consumption and fulfillment."
The Barna report is based on a nationwide survey on 601 Christian adults who were the parents of children between the ages of 2 and 18.