Shop Smart: Media Matters
I believe the toys we buy for our children in the important time of gift giving at Christmas speak volumes about how we spiritually nurture our children. I am also of a mind that we need to pay attention to the spiritual nurture of our children all the time because it matters.
Media pays close attention to the things that hold the interest of the child in viewing/consuming media relationships because products need to sell. I imagine the spiritual health of your child is not a part of the product development process. Products sold through media ads are strategically placed to solicit attention from your child; ads and actual product placement in media programming aimed at children is intentional to keep them watching and are directly organized to influence the thinking and feeling of your child.
Walking through Walmart the other day looking for swimming goggles for me (no luck, seasonal only), I perused the toy aisles for research. I was dismayed. When I happened on a toy in the “boys” section, I was floored; the action figures in the above image, are characters from the video game brand, Halo. This video game is rated for Teen and Mature players, that means people over the age of 14 (teen) and 17 (mature); does that sound like a toy for a person 8+ (look closely at the bottom right of the toy boxes)? It sounds like a toys that is intended to pave the way to the violent video game and that our children are being used for profit with violence as the technique to capture their attention.
So, the Mature (M) and Teen (T) ratings for the narrative and violent content in a first person shooter game that you would not let your 8 year old play are making toys for little boys and girls from that video game narrative. Does anyone sense a great dissonance here? Know any teenagers who have little action figures on a window sill in a room where they live?
Let’s take another look at reviews of the game brand:
From Common Sense Media: Parents need to know that Halo 4 is a sci-fi-themed first-person shooter in which players take on the role of an enhanced super-soldier to kill hundreds of alien enemies in story mode and potentially thousands of human avatars in online matches. www.commonsensemedia.org
So the purpose of the video game is sheer death and destruction. The binary value system of good vs. evil, I guess. This is a spiritual matter and these toys allow that perception to be made known. That is the purpose of the action figure toys from the game which is for teens, but in the children’s toy aisles. It is worthy of some thought before you purchase these toys for the younger children.
Parents, are you nurturing the children in violence for their well-being? Or do you wish to steer clear of violence as play? There is a choice each family makes because violence as play is well-grooved into the world and our children are aware.
I take the cautious approach: we need not feed the violence to our children. We need not purchase toys whose only purpose is violence and whose actual scripted game is not to be played by younger children even if the toys are shelved next to Dora the Explorer and various Disney icons.
Media literacy says, do not head to the violence as play. Your faith says, no thanks. Remember the scripture: Mark 9:42 “If anyone causes one of these little ones to stumble and be pulled to sin, they should tie a millstone around their necks and cast into the river.” Would you say that teaching violence to children is causing children to stumble? We can do better. Much better.
As people devoted to the grace of Christ in our humble lives, I am wondering if this is an easy “walk on by” moment in the toy aisle. I hope and pray that we are all giving prayerful thought whether or not to support the violent toy industry because to nurture our children in the way of love, peace, joy and hope (ADVENT) as we look forward to the celebration of the birth of the Savior, we intentionally nurture everything but violence. With that sort of love in our midst – do toys that promote violence as their central play wipe out all the good work of prayer and worship? Or at the least, cause confusion in the heads and hearts of the children?
Parents and grandparents need to be aware that the violent toys we succumb to purchasing for children nurture violence. I hope you will find the time to pray and think about how violence in the home affects how you and your family live together in love and faith.
With grace and hope,