Movies, television, music and other types of media have a larger impact on a child's worldview than school does, researcher George Barna says.
Barna, the senior research fellow for the Center for Biblical Worldview at the Family Research Council and the head of the Cultural Research Center at Arizona Christian University, told a gathering of Christians in Leesburg, Va., last week that children and teenagers today are constantly bombarded by unbiblical messages within the media – and that it's the role of Christian parents to be the "antidote."
"No matter what you're being exposed to, it's pushing a worldview," Barna said at Family Research Council's Pray Vote Stand Summit.
"... By far, the most impactful entity is the media," Barna said. "A majority of the choices that we make, in terms of our worldview, and that then get demonstrated through our behavior, come because of the influence of media."
Barna defined "media" as including movies, television, music, video games, the Internet and books.
"But all of those things together, our research found, have more influence on the development of the worldview of children than anything else," he said.
The media's shaping of a person's worldview, Barna said, continues throughout the teen and adult years.
Research conducted at Arizona Christian University's Cultural Research Center, Barna said, shows that only 6 percent of Americans hold to a biblical worldview. Most Americans – 88 percent – hold to a syncretic worldview that combines elements from multiple belief systems.
Underscoring the significance of childhood, Barna said most Americans develop their worldview by age 13.
"The typical American will die possessing essentially the same worldview they had at the age of 13," he said. "... I'm a grandparent. I'm spending a large share of my time trying to invest in my grandchildren, knowing that all of the media that they're going to be exposed to – most of it – is going to be antithetical to what I want them to believe and how I want them to live. And so I have to be an antidote. My daughter, who's their parent, has to be an antidote."
Tragically, Barna said, only 7 percent of parents of children under the age of 18 have a biblical worldview.
"So the rest of us who do [have a biblical worldview] have to come alongside these children in some way. We've got to look for opportunities, sports teams, other kinds of activities that are taking place to help them shape [their worldview]."
Barna urged the audience to make a list of children "whose lives you can impact."
"It is our biblical responsibility to raise up children to know, love and serve God with all their heart, mind, strength and soul," he said.
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Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.