Access to media and social communications in the home has been a blessing to many, opening grace-filled avenues that have brought families together in various ways.
However, this same access has also brought many harmful elements into the home, destroying families and fostering addictions that lead a person away from God.
St. John Paul II wrote about this aspect of the media in his message for the 38th World Communications Day in 2004. He even gave families a guide to help them navigate the complex world of communications.
Before addressing families, he explained how, “these same media also have the capacity to do grave harm to families by presenting an inadequate or even deformed outlook on life, on the family, on religion and on morality. This power either to reinforce or override traditional values like religion, culture, and family.”
In particular, “the family and family life are all too often inadequately portrayed in the media. Infidelity, sexual activity outside of marriage, and the absence of a moral and spiritual vision of the marriage covenant are depicted uncritically, while positive support is at times given to divorce, contraception, abortion and homosexuality.”
The key for families is to not give unrestricted access to media, but to make sure media and screens build up the family.
1Regulated Use of Media
“Parents also need to regulate the use of media in the home. This would include planning and scheduling media use, strictly limiting the time children devote to media.”
St. John Paul II did not advocate for “unrestricted” or “unmonitored” use of media. Parents need to be aware of how often their children use media and to have set time limits.
2Media should be a Family Experience
St. John Paul II explained how parents should make “entertainment a family experience, putting some media entirely off limits and periodically excluding all of them for the sake of other family activities.”
Often media in our current culture is consumed individually, and can lead to further isolation from each other.
The key is to make consuming media or using screens more of a family experience, instead of an activity that takes children away from their parents.
3Parents need to set a good example
St. John Paul II noted, “Above all, parents should give good example to children by their own thoughtful and selective use of media.”
If parents are not selective or restrictive in their own use of media or screens, how can they ask their children to follow a set of rules?
This requires careful discernment and self-reflection on your own use of media and whether or not major changes need to occur to set a good example.
4Choose media that builds up the family
St. John Paul II closes his letter be stressing the need to choose media that builds up a family. If it doesn’t do this, then it need to be re-evaluated.
The media of social communications have an enormous positive potential for promoting sound human and family values and thus contributing to the renewal of society. In view of their great power to shape ideas and influence behavior, professional communicators should recognize that they have a moral responsibility not only to give families all possible encouragement, assistance, and support to that end, but also to exercise wisdom, good judgement and fairness in their presentation of issues involving sexuality, marriage and family life.