Media – help or disaster
Fr. IRENEUSZ SKUBIŚ
On 16 September 2007 we celebrate the Forty-first World Communications Day in Poland. That day was celebrated on 20 May in the world. Pope Benedict XVI entitled his message for that occasion ‘Children and the Media: A Challenge for Education’ (we print it on page 16). Since in the contemporary world, dominated by the media, communications are also responsible for children’s upbringing. We cannot imagine life without the radio, television or Internet and therefore, one should educate young people to use these sources of information properly. Benedict XVI pays attention to the special influence of the media on children’s psyche and to children who are very quickly almost completely preoccupied with them. We mean the television and the Internet in the first place since they exert the strongest influence using images. Naturally, the contemporary communications are wonderful inventions, directed to help people by providing information, facilitating contacts or enabling them to relax. For example, thanks to the Internet the world has become a global village! But at the same time the inventions can be very harmful and we should prepare children to use the Internet, children who are uncritical and trustful, who believe that ‘reality, for many, is what the media recognize as real’ (according to the pastoral instruction Aetatis novae, 4, issued by the Pontifical Council for Social Communications).
Therefore, there is a basic task concerning upbringing. First of one, parents should pay attention to the way their children use the media, especially the Internet. We often notice that when we visit somebody children disappear quickly after greeting us and only adults still sit at the table. When we ask where the children have gone parents answer quietly that they are working on the computer, surfing and sending e-mails. The problem is that children do not care for family meetings or meeting with acquaintances whom they might even like –computers are more important. They are interested in what has no direct interpersonal contact. We can also see that the most important ‘person’ in many homes is the television set. Sometimes a TV set ‘reigns’ in every room, using the time that is assigned to sanctification in family. And although they all live in one house they are practically strangers. They live their independent lives. ‘Parents, then, as the guardians of that freedom, while gradually giving their children greater freedom, introduce them to the profound joy of life’, stresses Benedict XVI. Therefore, there is a great need to educate young people to use the media properly.
‘Media education should be positive. Children exposed to what is aesthetically and morally excellent are helped to develop appreciation, prudence and the skills of discernment. Here it is important to recognize the fundamental value of parents’ example and the benefits of introducing young people to children's classics in literature, to the fine arts and to uplifting music. While popular literature will always have its place in culture, the temptation to sensationalize should not be passively accepted in places of learning. Beauty, a kind of mirror of the divine, inspires and vivifies young hearts and minds, while ugliness and coarseness have a depressing impact on attitudes and behaviour’, writes Benedict XVI. The Holy Father appeals to all educators, which means all adults, and asks them to teach children critical attitude towards information given by the media and to critical participation in creating media programmes. He appeals to all that are involved in the media industry to be responsible for their actions because otherwise they can be involved in Satan’s work. The Pope quotes the very clear warning of Jesus ‘and the one who “leads astray ... these little ones” for whom "it would be better ... if a millstone were hung round his neck" (cf. Lk 17:1-2). The Church that follows the teaching of Christ understands the essence of man’s education. Therefore, it pays great attention to the Catholic media, which have the spirit of good, carry certain values and lead people to what is good and wise. It also encourages them to make good programmes, good films, so that they will shape human souls in the most beautiful way. Let us try to take to our hearts this important appeal of the Holy Father.