We consume an enormous amount of media. Entertainment media, from music to movies to television, and data from the Internet fill several hours each day for most people living in developed countries — particularly kids.
Most entertainment media are represented as being a reflection of typical or majority lifestyles, values and conduct.
However, media are more and more in the business of creating trends, suggesting lifestyles and remaking values and moral codes.
Media show a tiny and grossly non-representative minority but have an enormously disproportionate influence over the rest of us. A few hundred individuals (media executives, producers, directors, moguls) influence virtually every movie or TV show we see. Similar disproportionate influence exists in the music we hear. And this tiny “cultural elite” is widely removed from the mainstream. Most are far less oriented to family and considerably less likely to be married, to attend church or to profess belief in God. They have much more money than average people. Most live materialistic, jet-set lives and often disdain and belittle traditional values. Yet they portray what they produce as typical, average and mainstream.
Whenever a minority masquerades as a majority, the real majority is made to feel like a minority. Too many of us today have been made to feel awkward and defensive about our lifestyles, values and morality.
As parents, we need to help our kids correctly interpret the world and to understand that, despite what they see on their large and small screens, the fact is that the real majority still believes in basic principles of morality and traditional values.
Here are the two things kids need to know in order to avoid being deceived.
First, the facts run contrary to what is seen and heard in so many movies, TV shows, Internet games and rock songs.
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Second, a small cultural elite creates much of the media they see. Most people in this group are neither as family-oriented nor as religiously inclined as the average person. It is they, not we, who are the minority. But their visibility and influence, magnified a million times by media, sometimes make them appear to be a majority.
Kids who understand these two simple facts will have an immunity of sorts to the compelling “be part of it” influence of media. They will be able to stand aside a bit and see error as error, figure consequences for actions and take some comfort in the fact that how they live and what they believe is much more common than it sometimes seems.
Richard and Linda Eyre are New York Times No. 1 best-selling authors who lecture throughout the world on family-related topics. Visit them anytime at EyresFreeBooks.com or at valuesparenting.com, and follow Linda’s blog at eyrealm.blogspot.com. The Eyres' new book is "The Turning: Why the state of the family matters and what the world can do about it."