Captivated: Finding Freedom in a Media Captive Culture {Review}

Captivated Movie Review
At least several hours a week, my children are in front of a computer, an iPhone, or an iPod. They are downloading apps, posting to social networks, instant messaging, or "snap chatting."  While we have a strict policy about keeping apps, movies, and music clean, most of the time I find it hard to balance the amount of screen time my children consume, so I was very interested in watching the Captivated DVD by Media Talk 101.

Captivated DVD is a documentary written and filmed by Philip Telfer, founder and creator of Media Talk 101, a ministry offering Biblical help for a media saturated society.

The documentary challenges the unchecked use of media and technology in our culture and society.  It documents the potential physical, moral, spiritual, mental, and emotional impact of media and technology in our world when used without discretion. It challenges us as parents to use discernment and be proactive in this area of our children's lives.

The DVD is 107 minutes with over 2 hours of additional features, namely extended interviews. And while the DVD is intended for adults, it has been approved for all ages.


  • $16.95 - shipping included

  • If you order 2, you can get the 2nd copy for $5 - that's 2 for $21.95

  • There is also a 54 page companion study guide for $4.95 + $1.50 shipping

  • And there is also a one hour broadcast that was created to be shown on Christian television for $16.95.

Captivated DVD came at a perfect time. I unplugged my 15 year old the same week. He was becoming too distracted. He stopped reading books, fell behind on his school, and wasn't getting out of the house, playing soccer, or spending time with his friends. Why? Was he captivated?

The documentary starts off with a series of questions to get you thinking:

  • Have we entered a techno utopia or a virtual prison?

  • Is media and technology a leap in productivity or a setback to the important things in life?

  • Are our relationships richer and deeper or are they more shallow and disconnected?

The DVD offers insightful answers to these questions featuring media experts, church leaders, authors, speakers, real people, and real families, as it addresses the media challenges we face today.

The credits are an appealing series of clicks to introduce you to the movie. I'm "captivated" and drawn in right away to how one simple phone text inspires a google search, a Facebook "Like," a click, an email, and more. It's really very clever how Telfer uses this introduction to draw you in.

How did we get here? 

The documentary takes us back in history to understand what we're dealing with. We are introduced to virtuality and communication technology in the 1800s with the first telegraph ever sent.
"What hath God wrought" Numbers 23:23

The verse itself is thought provoking.

The telegraph was as revolutionary to culture as the printing press, according to the documentary, and instantly connected people across a great distance.

The documentary takes us through more recent history, as well, with the advent of the television, and how its use back then compared to its use today. We learn from Dr. David Walsh, Speaker and Author of "Smart Parenting, Smarter Kids" that the average American child is in front of a screen an average of 53 hours a week. With television, computers, tablets, and smart phones, our culture has become an "all you can eat media buffet," according to the documentary, as "we are conditioned to pile more and more on our plate."

But at what cost? The documentary has an answer.

The documentary explains the biological effects of what happens when children are constantly exposed to fast paced media. Reality becomes boring - it doesn't happen fast enough, and the consequence is a shorter attention span. The faster the pace of the programs, the shorter attention spans become. I thought that was very interesting and can see how this could be true.

Furthermore, children under age of 2 are discouraged from watching TV. I learned that the more cognitive stimulation a child gets before the age of 3 (reading and singing to a child, for example), the greater their attention span will be. I know from my own experience that when children as young as two and three watch a lot of TV, they lose interest in being read to. This is still a battle I fight with my 3 year old. If I allow him continual access to my smart phone, he would rather do that than read and do all the activities I do with him. I admit that it is nice to be able to sit my child in front of a screen to keep him occupied on occassion, but I try really hard not to let this be my crutch. I feel the important thing is to balance this time with reading, activities, fresh air and play, and not let screen time go unchecked - which is what I think the heart of the documentary is.

The documentary talks about the physical impact of media consumption by discussing the physiology of the brain and how it is changed. I learned that media stimulation directly activates the pleasure center of the brain. In fact, it tricks the brain and gives people a sense of accomplishment without having ever done anything.

The section on the myth of multi-tasking, featuring Maggie Jackson, Journalist and Author of "Distracted - The Erosion of Attention and the Coming Dark Age," was an especially eye opening part of the documentary for me. I learned that you won't remember what you learn when you are multi-tasking because automatic activity does not use the parts of your brain that relate to deep memory. We are designed to focus attention on one thing at a time. We lose speed, efficiency and accuracy if we multi-task. This doesn't include things we do automatically, like walking and chewing gum, of course, but things that require concentration. This was eye opening to me, personally, because I multi-task often. However, the more overloaded I become, the less I can focus and concentrate on anything.

A bit more History is revealed and we get a Titanic technology lesson. The Titanic sent and received 250 passenger telegrams. A telegram warning of icebergs was sent, but never got a reply. Instead passenger telegrams continued to be sent and that delay proved fatal. The historical information is fascinating!

The part on robotizing relationships really made me think twice about Facebook. Is Facebook just a shallow and narcissistic form of social media? Are everyday trivial things amplified by social media? Some are so caught up in staying current in their friend’s and social group’s lives that they have forgotten how to live their own, according to the DVD.

The documentary then shares a one month media fast testimony of a family that shares the benefits they experienced. I loved seeing real families in the documentary. Many of the scenes center around meal time or the table - classic times to spend together as a family.

We learn how media can have a physical impact on the body: hearing loss, eye strain, possibly brain cancer, carpel tunnel, texting while driving accidents, and impacting sleep by delaying or interrupting sleep.

The documentary emphasizes that it is not just what but how much.

Then it presents an experimental cure for ADHD and shares a story of children healed by this protocol: 3 nutritious meals every day, in bed by 9:00 on week nights and 10pm on weekend, limit video gaming and TV to half an hour per week, take child outside to play 1 hour a day and 3 hours on weekend. All 6 children following this protocol were able to be healed through this experiment. The documentary urges us: for the sake of the health of our children - unplug.

Then the documentary stresses that it not just how much, but what as it switches gears to content. TV used to be a vast wasteland - now it's a toxic dump, as far as content is concerned. As a culture, we are becoming desensitized, and demoralized by what's on TV. What once bothered us, we are now okay with. This section features Bob Waliszewski of Focus on the Family's Plugged In. My 15 year old son paused the DVD to discuss this section because, as a family, we use Plugged In to screen movies, but we don't always agree with the selection of movies they approve of, so this invalidated their point on content in my son's eyes.

What I got out of this section is that we cannot trust our own hearts because we don't know the effect it has on our lives.

The documentary goes into a section on Video Game Addiction saying that for some, it has taken over their lives. And that instead of seeking meaning, one testimony of a video game addict says he is escaping meaning and escaping reality in his video games. And getting away from reality is getting away from God.

Farmville Fanatic Finds Freedom is a testimony of a woman who realizes what a waste of time it has been now that she has found freedom.

While I get a strong feeling that media can have negative effects, the documentary is not saying "no" to media. It's saying use media in responsible and God glorifying ways.

But, Media and entertainment is a battle ground for our hearts and minds. Media influences our worldview, and it's hard to identify the enemy - it's woven into the fabric of our society. We need to use the Bible as our spectacles to help us see and find freedom.

Is there hope?

When given knowledge and understanding, we can use discernment. Discernment can be used for good or bad.  Wisdom is choosing the good. I really liked that!

And the good news is that we can start over. The documentary offers suggestions on how to find freedom and make changes to honor God. It offers some practical suggestions on how to fill that time up with beneficial and meaningful things, but that freedom will require an action. We have to take steps in our own life and evaluate how our lives, relationships, and our walk with God are impacted by the media age. The DVD gives you practical suggestions on what to do with this information and what will come as a result.

The practical suggestions are all about choosing God and redeeming the time (Ephesians 5:15).

We need to re-captivated by something else. . .  Jesus Christ.
"Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ." (2 Corinthians 10:5)

The documentary ends with images of devices powering down, and then smiles of people who have been set free. Very powerful!

Watch the video clips to see more!

My Thoughts

Captivated DVD has opened my eyes to the use of media and technology in our culture and society, especially the potential physical, moral, spiritual, mental, and emotional impact in our lives. I do feel challenged as a parent to use discernment and be more proactive in this area of my children's lives.

I feel the DVD did a good job convincing me of the impact of media, but I would have liked to see more practical advice on how to redirect my children.

My 15 year old loves playing computer games, so one way that I have attempted to redirect him this school year is to have him learn computer programming so that he can eventually design his own game.

My 13 year old can't do his school without listening to music, as it helps him focus. I'm not sure if that is a good or bad thing, or if this is an area I should be proactive in. If it is helping him, why is it a bad thing?

To be proactive with my 9 year old, I enrolled him in a homeschool class that uses his favorite computer game to teach History, rather than let him play just for fun. Does this count? I'm not really sure, as the documentary doesn't spend a lot of time addressing the benefits of media.

It got to be a little long towards the end, but it was still well worth my time to watch. Overall, Captivated DVD was excellent - a must see documentary for all families (whether you think you need to watch it or not).

If I could bury this for discovery in the future, Captivated DVD would be a perfect time capsule of our generation.


  • eye opening/thought provoking

  • good evidence

  • challenging

  • builds a compelling case on why we need less media

  • useful tool

  • definitively Christian

  • some of it is even a bit nostalgic

  • content is well organized

  • testimonies from real people

  • the scenes are varied

  • uses interesting quotes

  • good camera angles, details and images

  • well made video

  • extended interviews offer more details and information


  • not balanced with the benefits of media and technology in our age

  • got to be a little long

  • emphasizes unplugging rather than showing what a balanced, wise use of media should look like

Crucial Conversations With My 15 Year Old

I asked Nathan what he thought and he said, "I think they have a good concept."

But, when I asked him if it convicted him in any way, he stated that he doesn't feel media is a problem for him. For Nathan, it is not a matter of what, but how much, he thinks. I agree about the content, but not the how much. I feel it can get out of hand if his use goes unchecked.

I mentioned above that I unplugged Nathan. During this time, we came up with a plan to fill his time with meaningful things.

His plan:

  • noon ball (at the Y three days a week)

  • high school soccer (2 hour practice 5 days a week + games)

  • work out at the Y (lift weights)

  • read books

  • school work

I feel these are healthy activities that include plenty of fresh air, and exercise, but I wish that he had at least two more hobbies, including an indoor hobby or a winter sport hobby. And I am still not sure how to balance this with media in a positive, God honoring way.

It was a good discussion and I have lots to meditate on.
Captivated Movie Review

I later visited Telfer's site, Media Talk 101, and it shares Action Steps - practical suggestions on how to take steps regarding discernment that I found helpful:

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  1. […] see more reviews about this important film, check out Michelle at Delightful Learning and more reviews at the Schoolhouse Review […]