recently saw the film, “God’s Not Dead,” a drama about the current struggle between faith and atheism in our society. How refreshing to see a movie that had no violence, sex, drug usage, swearing or cursing.

The experience reminded me of the profound power of social media – the evening news, films, Facebook, tweeting, the Internet and the radio. So much of what we know, think, perceive, value and feel is shaped by the media we allow into our lives.

The theme for Safe Environment Week, April 6-12, is “Media and Morality: Creating a Kid-Friendly Culture.” The goal is to create a positive environment of dignity and respect within the media culture that so hugely impacts our children.

We want our youth to only experience images, music, games, films and television that help them to be genuinely holy, happy and healthy. While we can effectively use the media to evangelize, help the poor, raise awareness about global disasters of war and famine, inspire generosity and inform about current events, we sadly realize much of our media communicates violence, sexual promiscuity, gossip, obscenity and selfishness.

How complicit are we in the promotion of these false values? As we pray, celebrate the sacraments and volunteer at our parishes, does the rest of our lives match Gospel values?

Buying a violent video game, looking at pornography on the computer, watching movies that have absolutely no moral value or gossiping about somebody on Facebook contribute to the dehumanization of other people and the growth of sin and evil in the world.

Through what we purchase, view and use, we have the power to shape social media even as it is shapes us. How important is parental vigilance over children’s access to and use of computers and smartphones.

How much time do we spend engaged in social media? For some, the world of the Internet – virtual reality – has become more real than the actuality of life. Texting can replace face-to-face conversation, hours spent on the computer could have been spent praying, exercising, volunteering or playing outside.

As a child, I remember the neighborhood always alive with kids playing baseball or “Capture the Flag” or bicycling down the street. Today, you rarely see kids outside.

This is not to suggest that social media is bad or evil, but to what extent has it taken over life? Has the virtual become the reality? 

More than ever, we need to unplug, disconnect and rediscover the value of silence, prayer, community, family, reading and work. God and his world is the reality in which we live, not the media.

How encouraging to hear from adult leaders and confirmation students that, after some initial groaning, youth actually enjoy turning off and turning in their cell phones during a spiritual retreat. How good it is to actually spend time with a live person, to hold and read a classic book, to ski, fish, walk, run or swim in God’s beautiful world. I crave more real experiences in my life.

April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month. Every parish and school in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee is committed to creating a safe, loving and holy environment in which our children can authentically flourish as daughters and sons of God.

The great sin and violence of the sexual abuse of children by clergy is a terrible tragedy that can never be undone, but we can all pray, work and love enough to ensure that it is never repeated.

The teachings of Christ unveil the beauty, dignity and absolute worth of every human person, made in the image and likeness of God. We strive for the day when every human being, from the moment of conception to natural death, from the richest to the poorest, no matter our differences or divisions, recognizes and values the absolute dignity of every single person, starting with themselves.

We thank Patti Loehrer, the head of our safe environment office and all of the staff, teachers, parents and volunteers who strive every day to love, protect and nurture our beautiful children.