The Conspire Conference kicked off with Phil Vischer’s talk entitled “Discipled by Culture.”  Media is Phil’s area of expertise and today he centered his talk around the state of where we are with media, how we got there, the media impact on kids and the Christian response to it, and where we go from here.

He started by discussing the exponential growth of television, personal computing, and Internet access.  The scope of this blog cannot rehash all of the statistics Phil shared, but they are staggering:
–    99% of American households have a TV.  This percentage is greater than the percentage of households with indoor plumbing or a refrigerator. (Think about that)
–    Broadband Internet is in 63% of American households
–    2 out of 3 kids ages 8-18 have a TV in their bedroom
–    1 out of 5 kids under the age of 1 have a TV in their bedroom
–    In 2005, kids age 0-6 watched an average of 2 hours and 24 minutes of media per day
–    In 2004, kids ages 8-18 watched an average of 7 hours and 50 minutes of media per day packed into just over 5 hours of media use (meaning that kids are consuming media on multiple screens)
–    Media consumption starts low and climbs to 5 hours a day at kindegarten where it tapers off and then it climbs to 8 hours of media consumption a day around 11 years old.
Given the staggering statistics, media consumption is our national pastime.  It is the thing done more than anything else besides sleep.

Phil talked about how media networks have “HBO Envy.”  HBO is a consistently profitable media company and primetime TV wants to create the next mass distributed show like HBO’s Entourage or The Sopranos, which gives birth to shows like Desperate Housewives.  Family programming is no longer a financially viable option because there is no audience.  After a certain age, kids no longer have programming that targets them.  Instead there are distortions of kid’s programming like Family Guy and South Park.

Phil coined this phenomenon, “Compressing Childhood.” From a media perspective, shows for children are being compressed to younger and younger audiences. After that point (Hannah Montana, etc…) all that is left is narcissistic, self-absorbed, God-less, and church-less programs.  Media shows kids that God lives only on Sunday which leads kids to a compartmentalization of a child’s mind and the pervasive spread of the new religion of fun.

Well, what’s the Christian response here?  It is difficult to bolster a response to something that Christians were never really part of.  Briefly, the history of Christian television came out of Christian radio and both basically serve as “pulpit amplification systems.”  Jelly Telly ( grew out of the decline of Christian Bookstores and the increase of broadband Internet access.  Jelly Telly has two goals: to help raise the next generation of Christians and to help raise the next generation of Christian storytellers.  This is not a hopeless cause, we actually can make a difference.

–    Are you keeping up with cultural trends that affect children?
–    Are you listening to new music, watching new media, connecting with other voices on education and learning?
–    What evidences of “compressing childhood” do you see in your context?
–    Are you experimenting with video creation and storytelling in your context?