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I often find myself chatting with concerned moms and dads. Among the more anxious ones was Sallee, who explained that she had trouble talking with other parents about their kids' poor entertainment choices. Over the years, she'd seen her son's two closest friends change from lighthearted elementary students into gloomy high schoolers fascinated with darkness (the boys were outspoken fans of the extremely problematic bands Korn, Slayer and Tool).

"Yesterday, when I drove the boys to school, I heard them proudly discussing these bands," she explained. "I've known one of these boys since he was in third grade. Now he's really adopting a dark image. I know the mothers of these boys and am sure they don't realize what their sons are into. What, if anything, should I do?" A great question. If you're experiencing a similar challenge, consider this five-step approach:

1) Resist the temptation to do nothing.
Even though it can be difficult, it's always best to (tactfully) try to rescue children. They ultimately belong to God, who is interested in their health and safety. It could be that you've been placed in their world for such a time as this.

2) Never be judgmental.
Statements such as, "Your sons are negatively influencing mine" will close the door on meaningful discussion. However, starting out with "Like you, I really love your boys and want to see them succeed" can set the tone for productive dialogue. Also, don't assume that the parents are at fault. While indecent exposure can result from a lack of supervision and engagement, it's not always the byproduct of bad parenting. Even kids raised right can make unhealthy choices.

3) Be a source of information.
Sallee was sure that her friends didn't know about the dark music their sons were consuming. Odds are, she was right. Even though it may be hard to hear the facts, once they get over the initial shock most parents are glad to have been informed. Sure, you may encounter someone who'd rather stay in the dark, but Hosea 4:6 says, "My people perish for lack of knowledge." When you need evidence about what's really in entertainment, lean on the reviews at pluggedin.com, then point parents to the site so that they can do some digging themselves.

4) Communicate that poor entertainment choices are often a symptom of a deeper, spiritual issue.
In my years of talking with parents and teens, I'd be hard pressed to recall even one adolescent who feasted on deeply oppressive music and was genuinely sold out to Jesus Christ. Why? I think John 1:6 explains it well: "If we claim to have fellowship with Him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth."

Here's a related observation: Links have been made between a young person's passion for dark entertainment and a strained paternal relationship. This "father factor" can result from various youth traumas, the most common of which include an absentee father or a dad who is distant, critical, abusive or spiritually hypocritical. But even virtuous dads can raise a prodigal child. In those cases, look for dynamics such as poor self-esteem, rejection by peers or dabbling in the occult. Other factors may include divorce, being shunned by a close family member, or a permissive climate at home that has enabled or fueled a hunger for vile media messages.

5) Encourage the parents to tackle this issue head-on with their teens.
I'd recommend a lot of listening and dialogue, especially regarding deeper spiritual and emotional issues. If parents encounter hostility or a seemingly impenetrable wall, they may want to seek help from a pastor or Christian counselor. Still, do what you can to empower parents with practical advice for setting acceptable media standards in their homes.

Perhaps it goes without saying but always be "prayed up." Nothing of significant spiritual value occurs without the power of the Holy Spirit activated by intercession. Pray before talking to these parents. Pray during. Pray after. And of course, pray for the young people involved. Ask for wisdom. Ask to communicate as Jesus would. Isaiah explains that one of Christ's missions was to "proclaim freedom for the captives" and to see "release for the prisoners." If you know of a family being held captive by popular culture, consider being an agent of deliverance.

Published July 2010