Making Media a Pro-Family Event

Kara Powell | Jan 30, 2012

I am always saddened when I see families with teenagers waiting in restaurant lobbies for tables, and none of the family members are talking because each member has their own form of technology (iPods and cell phones being the most dominant). Or seeing teenagers and parents in cars next to me, kids with earbuds in their ears, parents on their own cell phones.

So often technology feels like something that divides family members. How can we use it to unite us?

My desire to answer that question is part of why I was so encouraged by this article sent to me by a friend summarizing some new research on “Joint Media Engagement”. The bottom line: when teenagers engage in media with each other, or with their parents, it can actually enhance their social relationships and communication.

As one summary of the research described:

Plenty of studies have shown that kids learn more when theyre consuming media alongside their parents parents typically chime in and explain whats going on or answer questions or share their opinions about what theyre seeing, hearing, and doing. In turn, parents can have a better understanding of what their kids are doing and learning and what theyre involved with during their kids media use.

In addition to the standard “sit with them and watch TV or play video games together, I’ve been especially impressed during our Sticky Faith work with parents who intentionally use the content and choices of what they see with their kids as conversation springboards. They ask questions during commercials like, “Why do you think he made that choice? What do you think will happen next? What advice would you give her if she came to you?”

I also have heard from wise parents that it’s a good dynamic with their kids to let their kids teach THEM about video games. Let your kids be your experts, coaches, and tutors in areas of technology. (To be honest, my 9 year-old teaches me features on our computer. It just comes more naturally to my kids than to me.)

Technology and media is here to stay. And its influence on our kids is growing. Instead of being afraid of it or demonizing all of it, let’s leverage it to improve our family relationships and discussions.

Kara Powell

Dr. Kara Powell is the Executive Director of the Fuller Youth Institute (FYI), a faculty member at Fuller Theological Seminary, and Fuller's Chief of Leadership Formation. Named by Christianity Today as one of “50 Women You Should Know,” Kara serves as a Youth and Family Strategist for Orange, and also speaks regularly at parenting and leadership conferences. Kara is the author or coauthor of a number of books, including Growing Young, Growing With, The Sticky Faith Guide for Your Family, Sticky Faith Curriculum, Can I Ask That?, Deep Justice Journeys, Deep Justice in a Broken World, Deep Ministry in a Shallow World, and the Good Sex Youth Ministry Curriculum. Kara lives with her husband Dave and their three children, Nathan, Krista, and Jessica, in Southern California.

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