Report: Teens Who Spend More Time Reading Bible Have Better Screen-Time Discernment

Report: Teens Who Spend More Time Reading Bible Have Better Screen-Time Discernment

By Movieguide® Staff

The Barna Group and the Impact 360 Institute released a new report that shows teens who spend more time reading the Bible have better screen-time discernment.

Barna Group President David Kinnaman claims that on average, teenagers spend over 5 hours on their smartphones. Furthermore, young adults spend over six hours per day.

“We’re all, as human beings, in this experiment of what it’s going to be like for us to be in a digital environment to be raised in a world that I call ‘Digital Babylon,’ where so many of the controlling factors are different than they would have been in the past,” Kinnaman said.

However, Kinnaman also explained how the Barna report also showed that a commitment to reading Scripture, church, and faith “are more discerning when it comes to their devices,”

“There’s this really interesting interconnection between being a resilient disciple and also how you use your screentime,” Kinnaman said. “They have a more positive outlook and greater mental and emotional health.”

He added: “Being a resilient Christian doesn’t just mean you have a stronger faith, but you’re actually stronger in some of the ways that matter most in real life.”

The addictive nature of media and screen-time is not foreign, and many agree that it should come with limits.

Barna’s newest report, Gen Z: Volume 2, claims that three-in-five 13­ to 21-year-olds (60%) acknowledge the need for less screen-time.

According to The Christian Post, Barna’s survey collected data from 1,503 13 to 21-year-olds over one month between June 15 and July 17, 2020. The sample reports a margin of error of ±2.53.

Over half (53%) of respondents said that they feel guilty about the amount of time they spend in front of a screen. Another quarter of recipients said that they spend “just the right amount of time on screens.” At the same time, an additional 13% claim that the amount of screen-time does not matter.

The report also details some of the immediate effects that too much screen time has on young adults. Over half (53%) said that increased screen-time encourages them to “procrastinate doing homework or other things,” and 54% said they feel like it is a waste of time. Moreover, precisely half attribute distractions to technology and 36% accused screen-time of feeling less productive.

Almost 30% recognized that screen-time negatively affected their attention span.

Mental health’s connection to technology became readily apparent during COVID-19 related lockdowns. More people are looking for something to fall back on in their anxiety and loneliness. Technology often fills that role.

The report also showed that half of the recipients felt more “critical” of themselves after spending time on social media. This issue reportedly affects more females than males.

“We need to manage screen time; sure, that’s really important,” Kinnaman said. “Yet, thoughtful discernment and better practices for these young people are the most important things that we need to do. … How will you embody this in your ministry?”

“Don’t underestimate Gen Z,” Kinnaman added. “They’re smart. They’re connected. Take them seriously. I believe now more than ever after the pandemic, our old methods aren’t going to work.”

As screens root themselves into everyday life, exercising care and discernment regarding social media is essential to protect and equip young minds.

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Addiction to technology and devices is damaging on a physical, spiritual, and mental level. Movieguide® maintains that parents must look to God’s sufficient and inspired word to train up their children.

Here are some practical ways to teach your child how to discern media messages:

Key 1: Understand the influence of the media on your children. In the wake of the Columbine High School massacre, CBS President Leslie Moonves put it quite bluntly: “Anyone who thinks the media has nothing to do with this is an idiot.” The major medical associations have concluded that there is absolutely no doubt that those who are heavy viewers of violence demonstrate increased acceptance of aggressive attitudes and aggressive behavior. Of course, media is only one part of the problem – a problem that could be summed up with the sage biblical injunction, “Do not be misled: ‘Bad company corrupts good character'” (1 Cor. 15:33). As the results of thousands of studies on youth violence prove, watching media violence causes violence among children. Bad company corrupts good character – whether that bad company is gangs, peer pressure or violent movies, video games and television programs.

Key 2: Ascertain your children’s susceptibility at each stage of cognitive development. Not only do children see the media differently at each stage of development, but also different children are susceptible to different stimuli. As the research of the National Institute of Mental Health revealed many years ago, some children want to copy media violence, some are susceptible to other media influences, some become afraid, and many become desensitized. Just as an alcoholic would be inordinately tempted by a beer commercial, so certain types of media may tempt or influence your child at his or her specific stage of development.

Key 3: Teach your children how the media communicates its message. Just as children spend the first 14 years of their lives learning grammar with respect to the written word, they also need to be taught the grammar of twenty-first-century mass media so that they can think critically about the messages being programmed for them.

Key 4: Help your children know the fundamentals of the Christian faith. Children need to be taught the fundamentals of the Christian faith so that they can apply their beliefs and moral values to the culture and to the mass media of entertainment. Of course, parents typically have an easier time than teachers with this Key because they can freely discuss their personal beliefs. Yet, even so, it is interesting to note that cultural and media literacy and values education are two of the fastest-growing areas in the academic community – a trend most likely due to the fact that educators are beginning to realize that something is amiss.

Key 5: Help your children learn how to ask the right questions. When children know the right questions to ask, they can arrive at the right answers to the problems presented by the mass media of entertainment. For instance, if the hero in the movie your child is watching wins by murdering and mutilating his victims, will your children be able to question this hero’s behavior? No matter how likable that character may be.

Read also: What Parents Must Know About Media Literacy vs. Media Wisdom