Captivated is a documentary written, produced and co-directed by Phillip Telfer, a pastor who travels with his family around the country, teaching on the impact of media in our culture and the growing need for discernment. He created Captivated to address these issues. Throughout the film, we hear from many different people, including scientists, ministry directors, pastors, professors, authors, and regular people who share stories of how media affected their lives and their ultimate response to it.
The movie itself contains four sections: Consumption, Content, Battleground, and Freedom. There are many statistics shared, and all of them are supported by research. Here are some that stood out to me:
- The screen time for the average American child is over 53 hours per week, and the average high school graduate will have seen anywhere from 18,000-20,000 hours of television. That means they will have spent more time in front of a television than in a classroom.
- The more television a child watches before the age of 3, the more likely they are to have short attention spans when they start school.
- Media (specifically referencing high-action video games and HDTV) drains blood away from the executive center of the brain, producing the same effect as crack (without the brain damage), giving you a sense of accomplishment when you have done nothing.
- More than 50 years of research shows that content can be harmful to children.
- Video game addiction parallels gambling addition.
I watched the movie first with my husband, and we both felt the need to make some changes in ourselves and in our family. We're not quite ready to get rid of the television and everything else, but we did start having family devotionals in the morning together, and we're turning "Family Movie Night" into "Family Game Night." We're also discussing setting more limits on screen time, simply because it's far too easy for all of us to spend too much time in front of a screen, whether it's the TV, a computer, or a tablet.
I also watched it with my girls (and my son, but he was bored, built a blanket tent and tried to trap the cats), and it made for a lot of good discussion. My 13-year-old said it made her want to put a giant piece of paper over the TV screen. Interestingly, my 14-year-old was quite resistant to the idea of reducing or eliminating screen time, so we will explore that a bit more. That tells me there is a problem, and a need to address it.
The movie is 107 minutes long, and isn't broken into as many "chapters" as most. You can navigate by choosing one of the four categories (Consumption, Content, Battleground, Freedom), and the credits. There are over 2 hours of special features, too, including extended interviews with 9 of the people you hear from in the movie, as well as "A Word from the Producer" that tells you who he is and how he came to make the movie. It's an excellent movie to watch and discuss as a family, and I could see it being used as a Bible study in churches or in a parent group. While some of the speakers may seem to take a somewhat extreme point of view, it's worth considering their position and remembering this is their passion.
The movie doesn't provide a bulleted list of steps to take to improve or "fix" a media consumption problem in your house. If you're like me, you will have lots of thoughts swirling in your head, and will be looking for some clear direction, Really, each family needs to evaluate their own situation and determine what, if any, steps need to be taken. You will hear a lot about "unplugging." They also make it clear that when you remove something, you need to replace it with something else, and I see a need to be intentional about what replaces screen time.
I appreciated hearing from one family, who shared their experience with their annual 30 day "media fast," in which they turn off everything - computers, TV, music, all of it. The first year, the children responded with some trepidation, but it sounds like they have all come to appreciate it and even look forward to it. There are several other individuals who share their experiences with various types of media addiction and why they chose to give them up. I also loved the statement that families have been entertaining each other for thousands of years - they would gather around, play and sing music, perhaps dance, play games - all in community. I feel starved for community in my life, and while I don't blame it entirely on media, I know I need to make some changes.
There is much food for thought here. Parenting can be a tough gig, and media can be a difficult subject to address. As with anything, we will take what is right for our family from what we've learned from Captivated. I'm grateful for this resource, because it has opened the door for discussion in way that may not have been possible otherwise.
Captivated is available from Media Talk 101 for $16.95, and they're running a special right now that allows you to purchase a second copy for just $5. If you're interested, check out www.mediatalk101.org, where they have lots of articles and ideas for you.
I'm going to leave you with this video clip from the movie, which addresses my main concern: relationships. Take a look - I'd love to hear your thoughts.
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