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Parents walk a tightrope every day in the arduous quest for balance in the home. That's especially true during the Christmas season, when we want our kids to enjoy themselves to the fullest, but without jeopardizing their physical, emotional or spiritual health. Is that quandry familiar?

For example, we don't want to deny our children sugary seasonal treats, but we realize a steady diet of Christmas cookies won't benefit anyone but the family dentist. Sledding down steep hills? Fine, but avoid the ones that empty into traffic. Hey, we're not spoilsports! We're just striving for balance. If I've learned anything in my years of speaking on the issue of media discernment, it's that healthy families apply healthy boundaries.

Years ago, my wife and I took our little girl to The North Pole. No, not the North Pole. The North Pole I'm referring to is a theme park here in Colorado featuring all sorts of rides and activities based on Santa's workshop. Reindeer. Elves. The whole ball of snow. Anyway, we wanted to take our daughter on some of the rides and show her a fun afternoon. 

The very first ride to catch my eye was essentially a big wheel lying on its side with wide chairs dangling from the edges. Pretty harmless, right? I thought, "If it doesn't go too fast, this might be something we can go on together." However, since I hadn't seen the ride in motion, I figured I'd better investigate. So I scrambled through the turnstile, climbed aboard and latched the safety bar. Before I knew it, the wheel was spinning at breakneck speed. Then a hydraulic lift kicked in and hoisted it on a 45-degree angle. Two thoughts entered my mind: 1) Boy, am I glad I checked this out first, and 2) I hope this thing stops before I hurl on all those nice moms and dads down there waving at their kids.

God used that experience to remind me about the quest for balance that all responsible parents struggle with. No matter what our children may think, we are not opposed to their having a good time. After all, that's why Julie and I took our little girl to the amusement park in the first place—for her enjoyment. But if there's any chance that our kids' "fun" might put them in danger, it's our job as parents to check it out first.

The same goes for music, movies, television and other forms of entertainment. Pop culture is a wild ride beckoning our children. Virtually anyone can climb aboard. No age limit. No height requirement. And as parents, we have to check it out first if we're going to establish logical, loving limits in our homes. Proverbs 3:21 implores, "My son, preserve sound judgment and discernment; do not let them out of your sight." I sincerely hope Plugged In has helped you pass on Solomon's wisdom to your teens during the past year.

Furthermore, thank you for caring enough about your children's media intake to check out that often intimidating ride. As a Plugged In reader, you've been dizzied by some of our cultural analysis. Your world may have been thrown on a 45-degree angle by a certain article. And frankly, a few CD reviews may have made you a little nauseous. But in spite of that occasional discomfort, you've probably walked away feeling more confident, articulate and prepared to engage your teens on the subject of entertainment.

Allow me to leave you with Paul's words from Colossians 2:8, "See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ." Indeed, our focus should remain on Jesus, both in our celebration of His birth and throughout the new year. May the joy of Christmas fill your home, and may the Lord reward your diligence in helping young people avoid the hollow, deceptive philosophies that occupy so much of today's entertainment.

Published December 2013

You Must Be This Tall to Ride