The Truth About Media Use

Leslie Basham: A young woman reflects on the media being created for her generation.

Teen: I think that there is an artificial perception of love being given in those movies and in the books. It's very deceiving because that's not how real relationships are. Love in the movies is always physical or something emotional that really pricks our "girl heart." It’s like, "Oh, he sang a song. Oh, he wrote a letter. Oh, he came after her." That’s not necessarily love.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, co-author of Lies Young Women Believe, for Wednesday, February 7, 2018.

This week we’re hearing from Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth and Dannah Gresh. This week they released the revised and updated version of the book Lies Young Women Believe and the Truth That Sets Them Free.

You know, it wasn’t that long ago, that for a parent to get on top of a young person’s media use meant, “I need to restrict how much television my child watches.” Today, the media landscape changes faster than any of us can keep up with. It’s moved from the living room, to the laptop, to the phone or other Internet-connected device. It would be easy to assume that today’s young people are generally clueless about the values they’re being fed in the media. “Not exactly,” says Dannah Gresh.

Dannah Gresh: Well, the frightening thing is that they do see the danger, but they’re not convinced they need to do anything about it. One of our top lies in the area of media was that the benefits of constant media use outweigh the harm.

Almost a hundred percent of the girls—98% of them—said, “Yes, I’m making some media choices that clearly are not good for my spiritual life. They affect my relationship with God. They affect my relationship with my family and others, but I think the benefits outweigh the damage.”

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth: They may not be so conscious as to there's a resistence to do anything about it because it is so ubiquitous. It's everywhere, and everybody is doing it, and everybody is wired.

Often with sin or foolish choices, you don’t reap the consequences right now. So you feel like you can safely go on sowing these seeds. When you’re fourteen you’re not really thinking about being forty-four and some of the long-term consequences, which is why Proverbs issues such a call to young people to be wise, to think about the future, to think about the long-term implications of their choices.

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction. Hear, my son; hear, my daughter, your father's instruction, and forsake not your mother's teaching, for they are a graceful garland for your head and pendants for your neck (Prov. 1:7–9).

Nancy: That’s where we’re trying in this book to reason with them and to say this may not be destroying your life in a visible way at this moment, but are the seeds that are being sown healthy ones?

Wisdom cries aloud in the street, in the markets she raises her voice; at the head of the noisy streets she cries out; at the entrance of the city gates she speaks, “How long, O simple ones, will you love being simple? How long will scoffers delight in their scoffing and fools hate knowledge? If you turn at my reproof, behold, I will pour out my spirit to you; I will make my words known to you" (Prov. 1:20–23).

Leslie: Of course, any discussion about media and young people today has to include social media. Dannah says that in the ten years since Lies Young Women Believe first came out . . .

Dannah: Our nation has opened its first Social Media Addiction Center. That's not something we had back then. Another big difference is we have a new term. It's actually in the dictionary—FOMO. It means, "the fear of missing out." Research demonstrates that the teenagers most likely to use social media are also the most likely to have psychological characteristics of anxiety, which really is FOMO. They see their friends doing stuff on social media and they are really afraid that their lives don't measure up, that they don't mean anything.

You have to consider that when Lies Young Women Believe initially came out, teenaged girls were using email—now that's an ancient form of technology for teens. The most boggling thing that I think is different is the stats tell us that teenaged girls are spending a boggling nine hours a day on social media or some type of screen, communicating with friends. 

For the simple are killed by their turning away, and the complacency of fools destroys them; but whoever listens to me will dwell secure and will be at ease, without dread of disaster (Prov. 1:32–33).

Dannah: I think one of the biggest concerns I have is how social media creates greater body image issues and beauty lies. This is one aread that is really dangerous. Girls are lighting, filtering, and then using simple programs like Photoship to present themselves in a way that's, let's call it what it is, it's a lie. It's not what they actually look like.

Media has always been the leading factor in body image issues and eating disorders. Fifteen years ago the media was limited to magazines, new fashion websites, celebrity culture, television, movies. It was celebrities that the girls had to compare themselves to. Now they compare themselves to the girls they go to school with or the girls they go to church with. That same factor of being filtered and perfected is still in place.

One of the manifestations is a rise in eating disorders since we first wrote Lies Young Women Believe. It's far more commonplace than it used to be. So that's just one measureable way that we can see how social media has impacted girls. It's fed them lies that are very, very dangerous.

If you receive my words and treasure up my commandments with you . . . then you will understand righteousness and justice and equity, every good path . . . discretion will watch over you, understanding will guard you, delivering you from the way of evil, from men of perverted speech (Prov. 2:1, 9, 11–12).

Leslie: Dannah says there are plenty of helpful ways media and technology can be utilized.

Dannah: Social media has a lot of great uses, right? We can communicate with one another better. We can do our jobs remotely. I remember in the early 90s I was a designer. I would sit at my computer, and we were so thrilled when we could send design files over the Internet. We would sit there and wait. It would say, "time to send . . . one hour." You would just wait behind your computer, excited as could be. Now we are sending things instantaneously.

There are good uses. Even the gospel is shared on the Internet. There are many people who are isolated and can't get out to church and they are able to have a community of faith through the Internet, through social media. Social media is not the problem. It's the way that we use it. Social media is a neutral tool.

One of the things that I think is really important for parents to do is to teach their daughter how to use social media in a healthy way. When you give your daughter a cell phone, don't just give it to her and expect she'll figure out how this works.

Consider the way you train her to drive a car. You don't just hand her the keys and say, "Have a good life." You prepare her; you teach her how to read the gauges. You teach her when it's safe to drive and when it's not. Do that with social media. Treat it the same way, because there are a lot of risks. You have pornography. You have eating disorders. You have all this anxiety and comparison.

Not just that, but we are beginning to see that some teenagers, when they hear that ding on their phone, it tells them they just got a text, or a like, or approval. Their brain chemistry is being altered by that. It's not healthy for any of us at any age to be on social media all day long. So teach your daughter limits. Teach your daughter where she can and can't go.

It's really important if you are going to set your daughter loose on social media to begin by letting her be on medium where you are also present. You are going to be able to see how she's interacting. Sit down with her and chat with her.

So you will be delivered from the forbidden woman, from the adulteress with her smooth words, who forsakes the companion of her youth and forgets the covenant of her God; for her house sinks down to death, and her paths to the departed; none who go to her come back, nor do they regain the paths of life (Prov. 2:16–19).

Nancy: There are some advantages. There are some ways that it can be used for cultivating relationship and for personal and spiritual growth. You want to take advantage of those. Our plea in this book is be intentional about your media choices.

One, know what it’s doing to you. Don’t bury your head in the sand and pretend like it’s not doing anything, because it is affecting you. To say it’s not affecting us—I mean our generation said that when we were teens. But it did affect us. So we say know what you’re taking in.

Dannah: I remember early in the social media world, when MySpace was still a thing, one of my daughters thought it would be really funny to pose with a water gun. That didn't go over real well in the social media world. I was able to see it right away and say, "I know you're just being silly, but that's not a wise choice. Let’s take that picture down." So just little things like that. Coach her up, train her.

Mom: My daughter is fourteen, and I think she’s anorexic. She’s looking thinner and thinner every day. I’m worried, but I don’t know where to start.

Dannah: Yeah, if you think your daughter is struggling with an eating disorder or body issues, I really recommend that you start with your doctor. A doctor can discover that your daughter isn't eating well, but that she has disordered eating but not an eating disorder. Maybe she's struggling with comparison or anxiety for how she looks or some clinical depression. Maybe her brain has begun to function not really well.

One of the things that I'm really concerned about social media and all the time that girls are spending on their phones is that it is rewiring the way that their brain chemistry works. That's really dangerous. That's one of the areas that it shows up.

So I'd really start with your doctor. He might say that we don't have an eating disorder here but there are some other emotional concerns that we need to get some help with. Then, obviously, step in with God's truth.

I love that we have medical experts that can help us with our daughters as we raise them. I love that we have Christian counselors that can help us with our daughters. But I've never seen anything work without ripping up those lies and replacing them with God's truth.

I have seen girls in counseling for three or four years or five, six, seven years—good counseling, good medical care. We spend several sessions with them analyzing what are the root lies and why are you believing these lies. What's under there that is causing you to have a proclivity to believe: I'm not beautiful. I'm not thin enough.

One Harvard survey told us that two-thirds of underweight girls thought they were fat. These are underweight girls. They are not fat. They are comparing themselves to social media, and they believe this big lie. So until we uncover what are the complexities of that lie and rip it up . . . Here's the important part, when you rip it up, you leave a void in the girl's spirit. If you do not replace it with truth, a lie will grow back. It might be worse than before. It's so important to go to God’s Word and find out what specific truths that this girls needs so she can live in long-term victory over that.

As I said, I've seen girls in counseling for three or four or five years not making significant progress. We're keeping them safe. We're keeping them alive. We're keeping them healthy. But their mind is not totally overcoming the lies. They need God's truth. That's paramount.

My son, my daughter, do not forget my teaching, but let your heart keep my commandments, for length of days and years of life and peace they will add to you (Prov. 3:1–2).

Mom: We homeschool our kids. Part of me wishes we could completely isolate ourselves from the world and live like hermits—no TV, no cell phones, no Internet, not even trips to the library. But not only is it impossible, I don't think it's right. So how can I train my children to be discerning consumers of media while at the same time protecting them from the trash that’s out there?

Dannah: Wow, I am so thankful for how you just worded that question. I think it's easy for us to believe the lie that if we choose homeschooling or Christian schooling that we are isolating our kids and protecting them from the world. That a lie that we as mothers often believe that's very dangerous.

I have had my own children in homeschool, Christian private school, and in public school. I'm not adverse to any school type. I know there are good reasons that many parents may choose any of those options. At the same time, I do realize that when I was running in the homeschool and Christian school circle, many times we as mothers were believing the lie that our kids were getting a bye. They were exempt from temptation, or that they were sheltered enough.

The way you just phrased that lets me see your humility. You understand the risks for your child.

I have to say this, and I don't even know if I should, but I think it encapsulates my concern with over-sheltering. As we re-release Lies Young Women Believe and Lies Women Believe, I'm in my writing studio penning Lies Girls Believe for the tween girls.

I've been really careful to do a lot of research as I write this book. Lies Girls Believe will also come with a Mom's Guide to Lies Girls Believe. So I've been communicating with moms for about two or three years—focus groups. As I write a chapter I'll form a group and ask them to follow up on questions to make sure I'm "scratching the itch."

For one particular event, I wanted to be sure I had mothers with children in public school, children in Christian school, and children in homeschool. There was one homeschool mom whom I saw at a public event and I said, "Hey, are you coming to my event."

She said, "Oh, no. My daughter doesn't believe any lies. That's why we homeschool, because she's not exposed to that stuff."

I wanted to sound an alarm and scream and warn her, because thinking like that is probably the most dangerous thing we can do for our kids. There is nothing we can do to shelter them the world and the enemy. If that were true, I don't think Adam and Eve would have sinned in the Garden of Eden. They didn't have nearly as much temptation, nearly as much media, nearly as much danger as our own daughters face today.

So I love how you phrased that question with humility and also an awareness that we can't truly shelter them.

Bob and I have a parenting philosophy—it's not our own. We want to teach our children to be miners, not monks.

So a miner goes into a cave and there is a lot of coal and nasty stuff and ugly stuff down there. But he's looking for those golden gems. She's going to take care to carve out those things of value. And those things of value are what he or she will bring out of the mine.

Now a monk is just going to hide in the cave. They are going to hide from everything in the cave. They think they’re safe in there because they’re not being exposed to scary things.

We wanted to teach our children that books are good, but they also can be bad. Let’s be miners. Let's decide which of these books are the treasures, which of these books are the gold. Movies, music, it's the same thing. Now, is that alway easy for our kids? No.

I remember one particular time one of my teenage girls was obsessed with a movie in the theater that we really didn't think was gold. We did not think we wanted our daughter seeing that movie. On the same token, all of her friends were seeing that movie. And it was a PG rated movie. It wasn't horrible, horrible. We just didn’t like some of the philosophy in it.

She was sixteen years old. So I said, "You know what? We are going to go see that movie together, and we're going to talk about that movie. I took her to see the movie, sat down with her for ice cream after the movie. I said, "What did you think?"

She said, "That was really dumb. I'm sorry I didn't heed your advice. This is why I think this is not a healthy point of view. This is why I wouldn't go see it again. This is conversation I'm going to have with my friends tomorrow about why the are so obsessed with it."

It was really a proud moment for me. We had worked when our children were eight, nine, ten, eleven, twelve years old, not saying no to anything without them having to do some of their own research—to become miners. We'd say, "Why don't you look that up on Focus on the Family’s Plugged In Online, see what the reviews are for that movie or that album.

Then we'd discuss it. We'd help them make their own choices, rather than just creating lots of limits for them. We were helping them to create wise choices. We wanted them to be miners, not monks. 

Blessed is the one who finds wisdom, and the one who gets understanding, for the gain from her is better than gain from silver and her profit better than gold. She is more precious than jewels, and nothing you desire can compare with her (Prov. 3:13–15).

Leslie: Nancy provides encouragement to young ladies from Philippians chapter 4, verse 8, which tells us what kind of things all of us should allow our minds to dwell on.

Nancy: It’s a great checklist there if you want one. It says, “Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” It's spiritual wisdom, but it is common sense, too.

They say that you are what you eat, and to a large extent, I think that is true. Basically, in our souls and our spirits, we are what we take in, what we think, what we watch.

So we’ve provided a list of questions in this chapter for the girls, asking them to ask these kinds of questions:

  • Would you be embarrassed to watch it with Jesus?
  • Does it create conflict between you and your parents?
  • Is it something you have to hide?
  • Does it cause you to isolate yourself from family members or friends?
  • Does it cause you to neglect other responsibilities?
  • Are you addicted?

They all say, “No, I’m not addicted.” The thing we say here is here’s a way to find out if you are addicted. Do without it for thirty days and if you can’t, then you’re addicted. I have to go back and examine my own heart as one who is trying to influence these young women and say where are my addictions? What are the things that I am excusing, condoning, tolerating that may not be overtly evil, but they don’t measure up to the standard of Scripture?

That’s where we’ve got to be willing to be—humble and honest ourselves and to say, “Look, you know it’s not just you. But the fact is, we have our issues, and before we throw the book at the kids today, we need to say, “God, what are You wanting to say to our own generation and where do we need to repent of our own media choices and our own selfishness and tolerance of things that are not wholesome?” We can’t expect a response on the part of these young people that surpasses our own willingness to pursue holiness ourselves.

Leslie: That’s Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth. She and Dannah Gresh have just released an updated version of their book, Lies Young Women Believe and the Truth That Sets Them Free. In it, they address lies we’re tempted to believe about media use, and more important, they show you the truth to counter those lies.

I hope you’ll identify some young women in your life who would benefit from this book, get them a copy, and go through it together. You can order copies of the book and the study guide at ReviveOurHearts.com.

And this week, when you support Revive Our Hearts with a gift of any size, we’ll send you a copy of Lies Young Women Believe as our thanks. Call 1–800–569–5959 with your donation and ask for the book, or you can visit ReviveOurHearts.com.

One of the most important subjects in this book is lies young women believe about sexual relationships. We’re bombarded with faulty ways of thinking in this area. But thankfully, God’s Word has a lot to say to young women about these things, too. Dannah Gresh and Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth will talk about it tomorrow. Please be back for Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth wants to help you know and love the truth. It’s an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

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