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The role of art in helping our children resist the worst of the internet

By Luciano Mortula - LGM | Shutterstock

Fr. Michael Rennier - published on 01/31/21

If we love the good and appreciate it, it's much easier to resist being affected by the bad.

“The rabbit-hole went straight on like a tunnel for some way, and then dipped suddenly down, so suddenly that Alice had not a moment to think about stopping herself before she found herself falling down a very deep well.” This is how Alice ends up in Wonderland. Down a rabbit hole.

Today, the internet is our Wonderland and rabbit holes are everywhere, pulling us deeper and deeper into a strange and dangerous new world. Before we even have time to think about where we’ve ended up, everything is turned upside down. A hyperlink takes you to a new page with new information, and a hyperlink there takes you to another, and another. One video after another auto-plays on YouTube or TikTok, with a whole selection of enticing alternative videos carefully selected by an algorithm to catch your eye and keep you watching.

These rabbit holes are addictive time-wasters. Even worse, they often lead to videos, imagery, and websites that are less than innocent. It’s a common problem to use the internet with the noblest, purest of intentions but end up lured down a rabbit hole of vice. It’s hard enough for adults to avoid it. We know it’s wrong and fight against it. Even so, we often fail.

As a parent, I’m even more concerned about it in regards to to my children. Young, impressionable minds are unintentionally exposed to disturbing content that they don’t quite understand, leaving them confused and upset. This type of content is particularly dangerous to developing minds and can form the basis for a lifetime of struggle against addictive vices.

Parents would be well advised to not trust the internet, which is littered with rabbit holes that seem to inevitably lead to the darkest corners of the human psyche. I recently read an article at New Liturgical Movement that referenced, “the addictive allure of subversive imagery.” The author, David Clayton, had a unique suggestion to help children resist the temptations of the internet:

Teach them to love beautiful art.

His suggestion reminds me of how, several years ago, I was looking for an illustrated booklet to help my children follow along during Mass. The vast majority of books created for this purpose use cartoon art, but we found one that used high-quality illustrations of beautiful works of art. They loved to look at the pictures and it helped them understand the awe and majesty of the Mass.

I’ve written before about how our house is full of art and how much our children love it. This is why I think David Clayton’s suggestion makes a lot of sense. It seems to me that, if the internet – or billboards, or advertisements, or the example of other children at school – floods our environment with dangerously inappropriate images and content, it would be a great help for our children to be formed not only to resist it because it’s unhealthy for their souls, but also to reject it because they already love something better. If we love the good and appreciate it, it’s much easier to resist being affected by the bad. On the other hand, if we never learn to appreciate beautiful art, then it’s all the easier to succumb to dangerous imagery. For both adults and children, elevating our imaginations changes what we think about and what we’re attracted to.

As parents, we can help our children resist the dark rabbit holes of the internet not only by attentiveness to how they use their screen time, but also by helping them to appreciate great art. This can easily be done in the home by putting art on the walls, incorporating drawing and painting classes into their education, and seeking out Masses that are in beautiful buildings and offer beautiful music and appealing worship.

Great art is full of goodness, beauty, and truth. These are virtues that elevate every other part of our lives. Our children don’t have it easy growing up with the constant temptations of the internet. It would be a great gift to show them a better way so their lives aren’t consumed by the negativity of the constant battle against temptation, but rather, each day will be a joyful and happy pilgrimage towards beauty and goodness. 

Read more:
How to start a children’s Holy Hour


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