Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Media Talk 101 {Schoolhouse Crew Review}

It's not unusual around our house to find all of us using a different electronic device at the same time. In fact, we sometimes have to stop and plan out who wants the laptop, who can work on the desktop, and who is content with either an iPod or the iPad. Even when we're away from home, we rely on electronic devices so much that I bring a power strip in our luggage to make sure we'll have enough power outlets to charge everything when we stop in a hotel.

When I watched the Captivated DVD from Media Talk 101, I realized just how many families have media focused lives similar to ours.

Just because our lives look like everyone else's doesn't mean that we're doing okay. In fact, in terms of media consumption, looking like the average family is not a good thing at all.

Captivated investigates the way media is now controlling so many aspects of our lives. It deals with not only the content of the media that surrounds us but also the amount of time so many of us spend wrapped up in various forms of media.

I will be the first to admit that many of the statistics are shocking. For instance, an average American home now has more TV sets than people. That statistic does not even account for other media devices.

This documentary does not just spit out shocking statistics in an attempt to get everyone to unplug their televisions and video games. Instead, it is a wonderful blend of research into the affects media has on society and personal stories of people who have fought against their own media addictions.

Instead of trying to record all that I learned, I'll share two of the portions that resonated most with me:

1. The story is told of a private school principal who had six different parents tell him that their children were going to start taking medicines for ADHD. The principal asked the parents to try an experiment first. The students were limited to thirty minutes of screen time per week and were expected to play outside for at least an hour a day (three hours on weekends). All of the students showed remarkable improvements with the principal's plan.

(Please note that I'm not saying that no child should ever be taking medicines for ADHD or that I think the screen time limits are a magic cure-all for every situation. The research is far more complicated than what I can type in a few lines for a review. It's just something that I thought was worth thinking about.)

2. A research study was done that looked at the brain activity of teen boys while they were playing a video game. Interestingly, the part of the brain that showed the most activity was one normally thought to be related to a feeling of a great sense of accomplishment, normally most active after a person has persevered trying to figure out a complex problem. It appears as if the teens were feeling a great sense of accomplishment based on their video game playing, not based on any amount of mental or physical effort. No wonder teens have such a hard time when asked to stop playing video games.

One thing I really appreciated while watching the video is that they acknowledged that media has a strong grip on people in our society. Many of the personal interviews focused on people who had successfully broken a media addiction. The common thread throughout the interviews and throughout the movie as a whole was that you cannot simply turn off all the media in your life. You have to make a conscious effort to find new interests to fill the time that was previously spent consuming media. One father now spends his Sunday afternoons playing with his kids instead of watching NASCAR races or NFL Football games. One lady gave up her Farmville addiction and now cultivates gorgeous gardens in real life. Several people spend more time reading the Bible now that they decided to spend less time on various forms of media. It's not just a matter of what you choose not to do, it's a matter of choosing what to do instead.

So what now? I watched Captivated two times, and I'm still working my way through the extra interviews included on the DVD. I know that it's time that I take a closer look at the media consumption in our house. It's so easy for us all to overlook the fact that a little bit here and a little bit there adds up over the course of the day. I honestly don't know what sorts of changes will be happening at our house. The questions raised  in Captivated are not necessarily easy to answer, but taking the time to examine the effects of media might be one of the most important things I do this year.

Captivated DVD is appropriate for parents with children of any age, perhaps most especially for parents of preteens and teens. Although most of the research is presented without a religious bias, this film definitely comes from a Christian perspective. My older children (16 and 13 year olds) watched most of the video with me as well.

The individual DVD sells for $16.95, and right now they are offered a special price on two DVDs for $21.95 (which includes free shipping).

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