When I was a kid, I remember someone telling us about “hidden messages” in albums if they were played backwards. Frankly, I was more curious about how in the world you could get your album to play backwards than any possible hidden messages.
As I reached my teen years, the emphasis switched from possible subliminal messages to the lyrics of songs. While I understood the concern, anyone who knows me knows I totally mis-hear most song lyrics and what I sing is nothing close to the real lyrics. (And don’t even get me started on the Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds revelation by my dad when we played it in orchestra!)
Unfortunately, our kids and even Christian parents have become so bombarded by ungodly things in entertainment, we don’t even notice any more the constant diet of unbiblical messages we allow into the brains of our kids on a daily basis.
While I am not advocating throwing out your devices and never watching a movie or listening to music again, we do need to be more proactive and aware. Now I can almost promise you this is what your kids will say, “That’s ridiculous! I’m smarter than that. Just because I listen to a song/watch a movie about murder, doesn’t mean I will go out and murder someone.”
In some ways, your kids are correct. Hopefully, they aren’t mindless zombies copying everything they see and hear. The problem is the gradual desensitization to sin. The heart movement that occurs with the constant exposure from rejecting something as sinful to tolerance, acceptance and yes, at times, participation.
The biggest problem is that we are already so desensitized, we don’t even realize when we are hearing a message promoting ungodly or sinful thoughts and behaviors. Don’t believe me? Turn on almost any television show. Pretend you are a researcher or critic listening carefully for negative content. Keep track of what you see and hear in a 30 minute period. Turn on Spotify and listen to some of your kids’ favorite songs and do the same thing. (You can often find written lyrics online if you have my issue!)
Don’t forget to listen for themes. They may not be explicitly stated in dialog or lyrics, but the damage themes can do may actually be greater. Often they are more difficult to notice, but in some ways that’s what makes them the most dangerous. The themes are changing hearts and minds so subtly, we don’t even know it has happened until much later.
If your kids are older, ask them to join you and see who finds the most. Make it a fun family challenge. Then talk about desensitization. Do they find themselves mentally telling a character to do something sinful? (“Why don’t you just kill him already!”) Did one of you miss things the other caught? Did you find yourselves agreeing with ungodly logic? (“Well, we were in love, so it was okay to have sex.”) All are signs the desensitization process has begun.
Ironically, secular studies have found content does change how people think and feel. Violent content results in more violent behaviors from those watching it. Content making suicide or eating disorders look like a great option can be the breaking point for kids on the edge. Depressing content can worsen depression. The list goes on and on.
Once again, I realize it is unrealistic for most families to eliminate all negative content. I do encourage you though, to cut back the amount of exposure drastically (don’t forget video games). Check things out online for content issues before allowing them to entertain your children. Put Philippians 4:8 where you can see it on a daily basis, then challenge your family to live it. It could change everything for your children and their spiritual futures.