Q: I need some advice on how to approach my teen daughter regarding the negative messages in teen magazines. I don't know where to start. Everything seems geared toward physical beauty. Do you have some ideas?
Jim: You have your work cut out for you! Our media culture tends to judge everyone -- but especially women -- based solely on their appearance. This mentality can wreak havoc on young girls when it comes to their self-esteem, body image and so on. Ironically, women's magazines are among the worst offenders. Even relatively conservative publications airbrush the images on their covers.
According to author Vicki Courtney ("BeTween: A Preteen Girl's Guide to Life"), little girls naturally want to be told they're pretty. If we don't tell them at all, they could end up having an unhealthy craving for male attention later on.
Hopefully, your daughter received this type of affirmation growing up. Now that she has reached the teen years, it's important to emphasize virtue and character over appearance. When she's exposed to negative stereotypes in teen publications, help her understand that those images of models who appear to have found the fountain of youth are not real. Most have been prepped by hair and makeup artists, Botox, plastic surgery -- and then airbrushed after the photos are taken.
It's up to you to help her distinguish between fact and fiction, illusion and reality. With a little guidance and a lot of love, you can diffuse our culture's negative messages about femininity, and help your daughter develop a healthy self-image.
Q: Our teenage son is a fan of horror movies. I watched one with him on DVD recently and, frankly, I was stunned by the violence. It's not like the campy horror films I remember. What should I do?
Jim: Bob Waliszewski, director of Plugged In, is Focus on the Family's resident media expert. Here's his take.
Bob: You have good reason to be concerned. Your son may believe that a steady diet of horror movies won't affect him. But the fact remains that our minds are shaped, for good or ill, by the stuff we pour into them.
This may seem rather intuitive, but I can't stress it enough: You need to help your son develop wisdom and discernment as he grows and matures. The best way to accomplish this is by providing reasonable guidelines while maintaining a close, warm, trusting relationship with him.
Sit down with your son and explain that research shows that violent media can lead toward violent behavior, and at the very least, aggressive attitudes. Praise him for his love of cinema (there are some truly great films out there!), but don't hesitate to let him know that dark, occultic, violent material will likely have a negative impact on his outlook and character.
Also, be sure to remind him that the reason you have to say "no" to certain types of entertainment is because you love him -- not because you're trying to spoil his fun. One of the ways you express your love is by doing your best to protect him from harmful influences. You wouldn't let him eat an E. coli-contaminated hamburger, so why would you let him consume "E. coli"-laced films?
Once you've explained your general perspective, you can proceed to let him know -- gently, but firmly -- that certain types of films will no longer be allowed. If you want him to respect your decisions in this regard, you'll have to convince him that you've done your research. A good place to start would be the movie reviews posted at www.pluggedin.com. Plugged In also offers plenty of positive alternatives -- movies that will encourage, build up and inspire -- something that all of us desire.
Jim Daly is a husband and father, an author, and president of Focus on the Family and host of the Focus on the Family radio program. Catch up with him at www.jimdalyblog.com or at www.facebook.com/DalyFocus.