Dangers of Media “Riptides”
Positive steps to protect kids from negative media exposure

By Dwight Bain, Nationally Certified Counselor, Certified Life Coach & Author

If you live near an ocean, you know about riptides, which are highly dangerous currents that can rip your legs out from under you and sweep you out into the ocean depths in a matter of seconds. If you try to fight the current, you will drown as dozens of people in Florida do every year. These silent and powerful ocean currents can overpower even the strongest of swimmers because the size and force of the waves become completely overwhelming. There is only one way to escape and save your life so listen carefully; “Don’t try to fight the riptide, just flow with it as you swim parallel to the shoreline. In a few dozen feet you will be out of the strong current and can safely swim back to the shore.”

So, if you have to deal with a dangerous ocean riptide, you have three choices… First- stay out of the water (and don’t let anyone you love go near it either). Second, pretend that riptides don’t exist and try to stay in the shallow water with hopes you never get swept away to drown in the depths. Third, learn how to swim safely out of the dangerous current and teach the people you love how to do the same. That way the ocean isn’t a scary place that could snatch you or a family member away in a blink of an eye- rather it becomes a serene place to sit and relax, or a place to make memories with your family or friends. When you and your kids learn how to use this life-saving advice you can spend your time at the beach having fun, instead of living in fear of the ocean.

Media can be very similar to the description of riptides above because it can silently and rapidly become a powerful force that sweeps away unsuspecting kids or adults with even more dangerous consequences. Mass-media is like an ocean because there are so many new technologies that reach into every corner of our daily lives. To show you how big this media ‘ocean’ really is, consider the many ways we are exposed to hearing, seeing or experiencing some form of multi-media from this partial list below.

Television, radio, CD’s, DVD’s, VHS videos, magazines, newspapers, direct mail, billboards, handbills, signs, movies, MP3 music players or other portable downloadable media players, hundreds of channels of cablevision programming for television, iPod’s and cell-phones accessing the Internet on home computers with dial-up, broadband or wireless Internet service, high-definition (HD) television, HD radio, and the ability to play any one of thousands of realistic video games on a laptop, home computer, video game system, cell phone or even through the pull down DVD players mounted in the roof of many cars!

• 20% of households in the US have at least one big screen TV
• Video game sales are now a $10 billion per year industry
• 33% of homes with Internet access in US also have high-speed access
• Teenagers time in front of a computer has doubled over the last six years
• Kids now spend up to 35 hours per week in front of electronic screens in addition to any academic studies and that number is rising every year!

“The Internet is a dangerous, dangerous thing
and parents have to know what’s going on.” ~ Dr. Phil McGraw

As more and more media flows into every aspect of our daily lives, it creates two distinctively different groups- watchers & doers. One group is actively connected to media, so they spend more time watching life, while the other group is growing more disconnected from media so they have the time to be more actively involved in doing life.

Kids, teens, adults and senior adults can become overwhelmed by the flood of media images that can sweep even the strongest person into missing out on good things because of wasted time watching life instead of living it. Others do more than waste time- they get washed away from their values because of continual exposure to unmentionable web images that drown their conscious minds into the depths of darkness and depravity.

The remote control can be used for parents to reclaim control

Does this mean that you should never watch a game on TV or movies with your kids? Of course not! Media should add value to your life, not steal it. It means you have to get honest with the reasons behind the viewing habits in your home. Understand what motivates you or the kids to do things, especially any activity that might stand in the way of a more balanced and healthy life. Talk about it and deal with problems or out of balance areas at once.

So how can you swim in the waves of media washing up and not get swept away? Start by asking yourself some hard but important questions.

• “Does this activity help me or my family to have a deeper level of spiritual or relational connection together?”

• “Would I let someone with the kind of language or lifestyle as reflected in this film actually hang out with my kids on a daily basis?

• Are you ready to get real and reclaim the time-energy or money that has been wasted in media so you can gain a clear direction to a better future of connecting as a family- instead of feeling lost and lonely with the people you live around who may already be drowning in media addictions?

Choose wisely

You do get to choose how to deal with this growing ocean of media choices. Take positive action in preparing to swim away from the dangerous media riptides and you will never live in fear of drowning in negative media again. You will be able to move from fear of media flooding into your home, to enjoying the benefits that this mighty ocean of options brings to you and your family. Education, spiritual growth, creative hobbies, connection with friends and family in any part of the world, personal development, fun games, laughter, building empathy or compassion by experiencing what life would be like in someone else’s situation, and the list of benefits goes on and on since there are tremendously positive things that this new ocean can bring to your doorsteps.

However, if you choose poorly and watch someone you love be caught up in the currents that sweep away values you will be filled with regret and grief over how much you wish you would have taken positive action before it was too late.

Let me challenge you to do everything possible to take action to protect yourself and those you care about by getting involved, becoming educated, talking, listening, asking questions and setting boundaries right now before it’s too late! Take every step you can to prevent these powerful media messages from stealing your time, family traditions or faith and values. I believe the best way to do this is to make real memories as often as possible in front of your own camera by taking snapshots of your family, laughing, playing and enjoying the power of positive experiences together.

Study this information as it applies to you and your own family situation so you can develop strategies to tackle the hidden currents and media messages that may have been stealing from your family for years. The good news is that you can make positive choices in your home and when you do, it will bring a positive difference as everyone learns to swim away from the dangers of media riptides, while enjoying the beneficial things that entertainment can bring while never worrying about how to get safely back to the shore.

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Author's Bio: 

Dwight Bain is dedicated to helping people achieve greater results. He is a Nationally Certified Counselor, Certified Life Coach and Certified Family Law Mediator in practice since 1984 with a primary focus on solving crisis events and managing major change. A critical Incident Stress Management expert with the Orange County Sheriffs Office and corporate trainer for over 1,500 business groups on the topic of making strategic change to overcome major stress- both personally & professionally; Dwight is a member of the National Speakers Association who partners with the media, major corporations and non-profit organizations to make a positive difference in our culture. Access more counseling and coaching resources designed to save you time by solving stressful situations by visiting his counseling blog with over 150 complimentary articles and special reports at LifeWorksGroup.org.