Today, multitudes of teenagers are walking through life in the shadows.  They wear dark clothing, paint their fingernails different shades of darkness, dye their hair dark colors, and seem to always have their faces toward the ground.  I refer to this pattern as the “Wilted Flower Syndrome.”  There are even Barbie-like dolls with an appearance of darkness currently on the shelves of major retail big box stores being marketed to your daughter. Statistics inform us that a large number of teenagers are seeking medical help for depression and anxiety issues with suicide as one of the top five causes of death for teenagers.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, “About 11 percent of adolescents have a depressive disorder by age 18 according to the National Comorbidity Survey-Adolescent Supplement (NCS-A). Girls are more likely than boys to experience depression. The risk for depression increases as a child gets older. According to the World Health Organization, major depressive disorder is the leading cause of disability among Americans age 15 to 44.”

In many cases, these teenagers come from stable homes with caring parents who seek to show them attention and provide a good home for them.  What is the cause for the great numbers of teenagers who seem to be wilted rather than blooming?  While I am not scientist or medical professional, I do think the link may be related to the information teenagers are consuming each day through a variety of media outlets.

The Garden of Eden and Modern Society

The book of Genesis begins with the beauty of God’s expansive creation.  The commentary of God’s creation was that God saw that it was good.  It was paradise on earth.  Yet, in the midst of the Garden, the devil approached Eve in the form of a serpent and tempted her.  If you take a close look at his attack, it was truly brilliant.  Satan attacked Eve through the “eye gate” and the “ear gate.”  He attacked Eve through the eyes by causing her to look at the forbidden tree.  He didn’t want her to look at it in the same way.  He was twisting her perspective.  Satan also attacked Eve through her ears.  Not only did he direct her eyes, but he lied to her through her ears.  He spoke a lie and twisted God’s word about the forbidden fruit.  Eve at the fruit and gave it to her husband and he likewise disobeyed God.

As we read Romans 5:12, we see the New Testament commentary on that horrible event of sin.  As we go back and revisit Genesis, we see that what started off as good in the eyes of God ended badly!  The book of Genesis started with creation and ended with a curse.  It began with divine blessing and ended with decadence, depravity, defiance, and death.  All of this was the result of a massive attack of Satan that came to Eve through her eyes and ears.  As we consider the “wilted flowers” of our society, could it be that Satan is attacking the teenagers through the eyes and ears as he once did Eve in the Garden?

Modernity is both a blessing and a curse.  We can be thankful for comfortable automobiles, medical advancement, heating and air, and a multitude of other blessings that we can attribute to modern technology.  However, like anything good, Satan will attack it.  We see that through the information technology that we have come to use on a normative basis.  Consider the following statistics of media intake in America.

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Child Television Statistics
Number of minutes per week that the average child watches television 1,480
4-6 year olds were asked to choose TV or fathers – this % chose TV 54 %
Hours per year the average American youth spends in school 900 hours
Hours per year the average American youth watches television 1,200
Number of violent acts seen on TV by age 18 150,000
Number of 30 second TV commercials seen in a year by an average child 16,000
Source: BLS American Time Use Survey, A.C. Nielsen Co.

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These statistics and others among similar studies point to the potential source of depression, anxiety, and discouragement among the children of our culture.  After all, why would teenagers who don’t buy their own food, clothes, transportation, furniture, television (and other media devices), or pay rent – fall into a massive depression?  Could it be that they have been listening to Satan?  And how would they be communicating with the devil?  No, it isn’t through Ouija boards or a cultic séance.  The medium of this contact could very well be the technology that has become commonplace in our lives – television, iPad, iPhone, iPod, and other screen devices.  Before you think this is an article written by some angry alarmist, keep reading and consider the connection between the attack of Eve in the Garden and the way our culture uses technology.

Through devices such as an iPad or an iPhone, teenagers can receive many images through the eyes.  Some of these images can be good, but as we are honest with ourselves, many of the images the teenagers are receiving in rapid fire succession are not for their good.  They show them images of success that they are to live up to.  They provide them role models to follow.  These images provide standards of waist sizes and skin tone.  The image is a powerful tool, and Satan knows it.  Remember, he pointed out the image of the forbidden fruit to Eve many years ago.

These devices also have long surpassed the Walkman and Gameboy devices from the 90’s.  The point is, these HD devices provide stunning imagery alongside great sound at the touch of a button.  While Satan provides images to view, he also speaks lies into their ears.  Satan hates the truth and is known as the “father of lies” (John 8:44).  Our generation is a connected generation with wires coming out of ears and fingers on screens the majority of an average day.  Satan carefully weaves his lies into popular music and it he delivers his message with power, privacy, and proficiency.  Before long, like Eve in the Garden of Eden, teenagers have the forbidden fruit in their hands and soon thereafter they feel entrapped by their sin.  This pattern causes their beautiful minds which are gifts from God to become a dark wilted flower.

The Responsibility of Parents

Deuteronomy 6 provides us as parents with the responsibility of caring for our children.  It is our duty to protect our children from culture.  It’s time for us to realize that we must protect the eyes and ears of our children from this present evil age.  We must address this issue and place boundaries on who can and cannot speak into the lives of our children.  Rather than just providing tablet devices with open Internet capabilities to children, we must create filters and actively manage their intake of movies, music, and written forms of media.

Furthermore, it is our duty as fathers and mothers to teach our children to know God through His Word.  In times of distress, doubt, discouragement, and defeat – we should teach our children to find their hope in God through Jesus Christ.  As the Psalmist rightly declares, “I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you” (Psalm 119:11).  As statistics tell us that 70-88% of all college students by the end of their freshman year walk away from the faith of their parents, we must take our role seriously.  It must be known to our children before they leave our homes that Jesus is more than a suit and a tie on Sunday to us. We must live out our theology in the home and provide substantial evidence to corroborate our faith in Jesus.  If our children see a disconnect between our doctrine and duty – they will likely grow disconnected from the church.

I can’t promise that media management will cause all wilted flowers to bloom.  What I can promise is that consistent media management will honor God and seek to accomplish Proverbs 22:6 – “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.”  Satan will use media intake to accomplish 2 Corinthians 4:4 – to blind the minds of children to the gospel.  It is our duty as parents to shine the light of the glorious gospel of Christ into the darkness that our teenagers often dwell in.  As we think about media and the influence it has on children, we must ask ourselves a really important question.  Who has the right to influence my child?  Remember, if we neglect to influence our children, Satan is waiting at the curbside.  He is interested in connecting your child to other teachers of neopaganism, secular humanism, atheism, and most of these teachers are found through the door of postmodernism.

Don’t just sit back, stand up!  Don’t remain silent, speak up!  Don’t surrender, move up!  Your child is worth it.  God has entrusted you with your child and you must honor Him.

Soli Deo Gloria,

Pastor Josh Buice