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George Barna shares 4 ways Christian parents can combat media’s influence in children’s lives

George Barna
George Barna, director of the Cultural Research Center at Arizona Christian University, speaks at the Pray Vote Stand Summit in Leesburg, Virginia, on Oct. 8, 2021. |

A prominent Christian researcher is urging parents to take an active role in combating the influence of the media on their children, which he believes has led Americans to embrace teachings that run contrary to the biblical worldview. 

The third day of programming for the Family Research Council Action's Pray, Vote, Stand Summit, formerly known as the Values Voter Summit, was held on Friday. The annual gathering of social conservatives took place at the Cornerstone Chapel in Leesburg, Virginia, this year. The first panel of the day discussed the “crisis in the church” that has developed because “Christians don’t have a biblical worldview.”

Moderated by David Closson, the director of the Family Research Council’s newly launched Center for Biblical Worldview, the panel included George Barna, director of the Cultural Research Center at Arizona Christian University, Joseph Backholm of the Center for Biblical Worldview and Nancy Pearcey, professor and scholar in residence at Houston Baptist University.

While much of the discussion focused on problems that've resulted from the decline in the number of Americans who hold a biblical worldview, the panelists also provided advice to parents and faith leaders about how to instill a biblical worldview in their children.

“The most significant influence on the development of a worldview in America today is what we absorb from the media," Barna contended. "And if that’s the case, then that says to me as a parent or a grandparent or somebody who cares about the development of the worldview of children that I’ve got to pay attention to what media is investing in those children’s minds and hearts.” 

Barna then listed “four Ms” that parents should employ to combat the harmful influence of the media on their children.

He first advised parents to “monitor what these kids are being exposed to because our research shows that most parents are happy to buy their children every device the kids want, and then they leave the kids up to determine what they’re going to take in through all those devices. They don’t even know what their kids are being exposed to.”

Barna also suggested that parents “minimize it because our research also shows that in America, the biggest addiction in our country is media. We spend more time literally absorbing messages from media than anything else we do except for sleep.”

Illustrating the need to limit “the enormous exposure that we have to that kind of information,” Barna maintained that parents do not tell their children to “eat everything in the house,” but rather “eat a certain amount of things … three times a day.” He told parents that “we need to do the same kind of ingestion methods … with media.”

Introducing “mediate” as the third “M,” Barna called on parents to “serve as the mediator between what the media is trying to get you to believe and what we, as followers of Jesus, believe based on what the scriptures teach.” He remarked that if parents are watching a show with their children that exposes them to an idea that runs contrary to the biblical worldview, they should tell them: “We know that’s a lie … because the Scriptures teach us this.”

The final “M” Barna urged parents to rely on was “moralize.” In other words, “helping them to understand the difference between right and wrong.” He predicted that “if parents simply did that in the lives of their kids, it would revolutionize America today.”

Setting the stage for the conversation, Barna pointed to research that found only 6% of adults have a biblical worldview, a number that rises to 9% among “people who call themselves Christian.” Another statistic that's particularly concerning is that only 19% of born-again Christians have a biblical worldview.

Barna further noted that only 21% of those who attend evangelical churches have a biblical worldview.

He implied that the small share of Americans who have a biblical worldview stems from the fact that “a large proportion of our senior pastors don’t have a biblical worldview.” Describing worldview as a “critical element,” he explained that “a person’s worldview begins forming at 15 to 18 months of age and is almost fully formed by the age of 13.”

Acknowledging the important role that pastors have in shaping people’s worldview, Pearcey advised faith leaders to teach “apologetics from the pulpit,” specifically “any time you introduce a biblical doctrine, you tell people how to defend it.”

Pearcey added: “We need to be equipping people with the tools to face the attack that they’re going to face … as soon as they go out of the sanctuary.”

She stressed that the exposure to the media and internet alone are not the only factors causing many children to develop a non-biblical worldview: “What you’re seeing now is a trend toward ‘I got it at school.’” Pearcey also emphasized that young children are given the idea that gender is a social construct from schools as well as from children’s programming, saying, "Our kids are being exposed … to secular worldviews from a very young age … from the Saturday morning cartoons.”

Panelists also elaborated on what constitutes a worldview. Backholm defined a worldview as “assumptions about origin, meaning, morality and destiny.” He indicated that a person’s worldview is formulated by answers to questions asking “where did I come from,” “does my life have meaning, yes, no … and why,” “who determines what is right and wrong” and “what happens when I die?”

Backholmattributed the lack of Americans who actually subscribe to a biblical worldview to the fact that “we don’t take those assumptions and then connect the dots to everything that we believe in public policy.” He pointed to “pressure to believe the correct things politically about gender, about human sexuality [and] about marriage” as the reason why rather than making sure their worldview forms their politics, many people allow their politics to form their worldview.

“As Christians, we’re supposed to start with the foundation of … this is what God said is true about the world. I know that’s true, therefore I’m going to make sure everything I think about X,Y and Z is actually based on these assumptions about what God said is true, but most of us aren’t doing that,” he lamented.

“We have all this pressure to be good people and to prove we’re good people by thinking the correct things about X,Y and Z, and we know we have to think these things to prove that we’re good people, and so we’re going to form a worldview deductively after we’ve concluded, after we’ve formed our political opinions and made sure our worldview fits our political conclusions rather than make sure that our political conclusions are based on our worldview.”

Noting that “there are 16,000 hours between kindergarten and 12th grade,” Backholm proclaimed that “you cannot overcome the impact of those 16,000 hours by taking them to church on Sunday and maybe taking them to youth group on Wednesday night.” He also elaborated on the effects of what children learn at school on their worldview: “They’re cucumbers that are becoming pickles. And the brine that they soak in has a lot to say about what they become.”  

Backholm warned that even if children are not introduced to “pagan lies” by their teachers, “They’re still soaking things in from the culture that’s around them that’s influencing what they love, which the research tells us, what they love determines what they ultimately believe is true.”

Barna added that children experience “32,000 hours during that same period of time of media exposure.” He accused schools of “laying a foundation that the media then supports,” exposing children to “48,000 hours' worth of content” that runs contrary to the biblical worldview.

Ryan Foley is a reporter for The Christian Post. He can be reached at: ryan.foley@christianpost.com

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