I was an idealistic teenager and thought I knew more than my parents. I grew to detest television; my family spent too much time with “the plug-in drug.” On one occasion, I entered the house and genuflected to the TV-Altar, the focus of our living room. I was, to put it mildly, a bear.
Looking back I realize what I desired was my parent’s time and attention. The television was a relentless competitor.
As a young father I committed to doing things differently. The television would not be our home’s center, but was banished to the closet. Nothing wrong with watching TV, I said, but you had to work for it. Mindlessly thumbing the remote was verboten. You had to know what you wanted to watch before getting it out of the closet. Learning to control the television—as opposed to the other way around—was the point.
Eventually these rules gave way and normalcy returned.
But the theory that humans have dominion over creation, especially their own, still holds. I have a friend who groans about a full in-box. My reply: “We have dominion!” Get back in there and manage your media.
I retold these stories to my adult children. The older ones, rolling their eyes, recalled the television rules. I asked them: How will you teach your children about media? After a flippant response of “we hope it goes away,” a lively discussion ensued. They told me about “web nights” with children, where the family explores a topic together on the web. Humans’ dominion over our creation is not dead!
Interestingly, though, the dark side of “intentionality” surfaced. We found ourselves discussing the importance of boredom. For many children and their parents, “doing nothing” is considered a waste of time. Boredom, by other names, however, creates new things. For instance, in the biblical story, God creates “from nothing” – and nothing, we must admit, is pretty boring!
Controlling media is important. But so is respecting the “mindless” media activity of our kids. It may not be so mindless after all.