Nov 19, 2007

From the Archives

Christian Parents Are Not Comfortable With Media But Buy Them for Their Kids Anyway

Billions of dollars will be spent this Christmas season on gifts for children. A new national study by The Barna Group among Christian parents shows that even though most Christian parents are not always comfortable with the content of the media-related products, they purchase some of those items as presents for their children. The born again Christian population of the U.S. is likely to spend more than $1 billion on media products such as CDs, DVDs, video games and magazines for children under the age of 18 despite parental misgivings about the moral content or developmental affects of those resources.

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Past Purchases and Feelings

The Barna survey discovered that the most widely purchased media by Christian parents in the past year were DVDs of movies and TV programs. More than three out of four Christian parents (78%) had purchased such disks for their teenagers and almost nine out of ten Christian parents (87%) had purchased DVDs for their children under 13. However, one-quarter of those adults (26%) did not feel comfortable with the DVD products they purchased.

The next most popular type of media content purchased for children by Christian parents were music CDs. About six out of ten parents bought these discs for their kids, yet one out of every three of those parents (33%) had concerns about the content. This was more evident among the parents of teenagers than among those who were buying music for pre-teens.

Slightly more than half of all Christian parents had purchased video games for their children in the past year, in both the pre-teen and teen categories. About four out of ten pre-teen parents (39%) were concerned about the content of those games, compared to nearly half of the parents of teen recipients (46%) who admitted to such concerns.

Similarly, about half of all Christian parents (51%) had purchased magazines for their children. Roughly three out of ten Christian parents (31%) were not very comfortable with the content of the magazines acquired for their children.

Computer software was bought by 36% of the Christian parents of pre-teens and 39% of the Christian parents of teenagers. Overall, one out of every four Christian parents who acquired software for their children (24%) was not comfortable with the software.

The least common media form acquired by Christian parents for their children were downloads for mobile phones. Just 3% of the parents of pre-teens and 19% of teen parents bought one or more downloads for their children. Overall, a large majority (70%) possessed concerns about the content of those downloads.

Patterns of Discomfort

In examining the discomfort of Christian parents related to the media content purchased for their children, the survey data indicated that the parents least likely to buy such media resources for their children were fathers and Hispanics.

The Christian parents who were generally the least comfortable with the content of the products purchased were non-whites and parents involved in a house church. On the other hand, among the Christian parents most comfortable with the media products purchased were single parents, mothers and those who were least active in practicing their faith.

The research examined the media use of the parents interviewed. There was a significant link between parental media use and the level of comfort with the media resources purchased for their children. The more media consumed by the parent, the more comfortable they were with all forms of media they had purchased for their children.

The study also pointed out that parental concern about media content is significantly higher when the products purchased are for teenagers. Parents struggle to walk the fine line between buying things that are morally appropriate while being relevant to the age group.

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Observations about the Findings

The outcomes struck the study’s lead researcher, George Barna, as reflective of the challenge Christians face in today’s culture.

“Millions of Christian parents want to appear to be relevant in their children’s eyes, and to provide gifts that fit within the mainstream of postmodern society,” Barna noted. “The problem is that many of the entertainment products that meet those criteria conflict with the moral precepts of the Christian faith. Parents have to make a choice as to what is more important: pleasing their kids’ taste and sensibilities, or satisfying God’s standards as defined in the Bible. When the decision made is to keep their children happy, the Christian parent is often left with a pit in their stomach.

“The process of selecting appropriate Christmas presents for children is a microcosm of the spiritual tension millions of Christian adults wrestle with,” the California-based researcher explained. “Many Christian parents are striving to serve two conflicting masters: society and God. They refuse to believe that they cannot satisfy both. Sadly, this Christmas season will produce enormous stress for numerous Christian parents who don’t want to disappoint either God or their children, but whose ultimate choices will disappoint both God and themselves, while providing gifts that are not be in the best interests of their children. For Christians, the Christmas season should be a time of celebration and appreciation of the life of Jesus Christ. Instead, that joy is being minimized by the pressure and confusion introduced by our focus on material consumption and fulfillment.”

About the Research

This report is based upon a nationwide telephone survey conducted by The Barna Group in among a random sample of 601 Christian adults who were the parents of children between the ages of 2 and 18. The maximum margin of sampling error associated with the aggregate sample is ±4.1 percentage points at the 95% confidence level. Statistical weighting was used to calibrate the sample to known population percentages in relation to demographic variables.

About Barna

Since 1984, Barna Group has conducted more than two million interviews over the course of thousands of studies and has become a go-to source for insights about faith, culture, leadership, vocation and generations. Barna is a private, non-partisan, for-profit organization.

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