Husband & Wife Articles


Extreme Media Makeover

Parents must be aware of what their kids are watching

By Teresa Tomeo


“If parents only knew what they are up against when it comes to raising children and keeping their family together in our media saturated culture.” I find myself saying this over and over again as I continue to write, present and teach on media awareness and activism. It’s not that very many people disagree about the high level of toxicity out there on the Internet and the airwaves; it’s that most of them don’t realize just how bad it really is and the terrible toll our culture can take – and is taking – on our faith and our families.  And unfortunately most moms and dads don’t make a real effort to control media consumption – not only for their children but for themselves.

Since my area of expertise is media and cultural issues, I am up to my eyeballs daily poring over yet one more study or survey connecting the dots between the messages that bombard us 24/7 and the decline in morality, as well as the many other societal ills we see around us – abortion, sexual promiscuity, rampant pornography, aggressive and other disturbing behavior in young people, and a whole host of other problems. The continual flow of statistics and eye-opening reports, of course, serve as an affirmation for my ministry.

Just recently, for example, there was an alarming survey taken of 1,100 teen girls across America showing more than half of those questioned believe that Reality TV programs such as Jersey Shore and The Hills, are “mainly real and unscripted.” Yet nothing could be further from the truth. These impressionable young women also told researchers in this same survey that thanks to these types of shows, they expect more drama in their own lives and believe that gossiping, being mean, and telling lies to get ahead are as natural as brushing their teeth and combing their hair.

More than anything, it’s the personal stories of the walking wounded that keeps me working, especially the testimonies of young people. Probably one of the most moving letters I received came from a 16-year-old from the Midwest. She attended a wonderful Catholic high school and by her own admission had parents who loved her. Yet in the handwritten note I received in the mail about two weeks after my presentation at her school, this teen admitted she struggled not only with depression and an eating disorder but she also cut herself frequently. She was only able to stop and come out of her depressed state after serious counseling. She thanked me for my talk in which I frankly discussed my only battle with an eating disorder. Why did she spend what is supposed to be some of the best years of her young life in so much pain? Her answers: peer pressures along with messages from the media that made her feel she just wasn’t good enough.

That’s why I wrote my most recent book, Extreme Makeover; Women Transformed by Christ, Not Conformed to the Culture. While Extreme Makeover takes an in-depth look at the long list of lies told to women by the culture over the last 40-plus years, including radical feminism and the contraception craze, as one priest told me who read the book, “men will benefit from reading it too.” Mothers, fathers, single women and men, all of us need to realize that while we certainly can’t blame the media for all of our many issues, we can’t ignore it either. We can all use an “extreme” media or cultural makeover. This book provides plenty of additional research on why the Church teachings on life, marriage, sexuality, and the dignity of women are spot on. It also provides a media makeover plan as well as plenty of testimonies of women like me who experienced their own spiritual transformation or “extreme makeover.” As the Archbishop of Philadelphia, Charles J. Chaput proclaims, “we need to know how the media work so they don’t work on us.” I hope you’ll join me in my efforts to make a difference in the media.

Teresa Tomeo is a Catholic author and radio host whose latest book is Extreme Makeover: Women Transformed by Christ, Not Conformed to the Culture, published by Ignatius Press. Her website is