Let me make a few things clear before I tell you why and how the four of us stayed up past midnight watching the MTV Video Music Awards.

1. We didn't have television in our home for the first decade of our boys' lives (partly because we lived overseas and then in areas where we'd have to pay for cable to get any channels at all).

2. When we finally decided to get cable (a decision that may have been influenced by the Red Sox and the Patriots), we chose Comcast, which allows us to tape shows, fast-forward through commercials, and block "objectionable" channels.

3. MTV is one of those channels, and last night was the first time we invited it into our home (apart from watching a few half-hour, commercial-free episodes of the Andy Milonakis show.)

So why did we watch the VMA awards? At this stage of parenting (and at the risk of repeating myself ad nauseaum), it's all about keeping them company as we try and train them to be ambassadors for Christ. That's why, as we watched the taped show about an hour after it aired, we hunted as a family for any mention of God and rejoiced when a few musicians took time to thank Him. We noticed how the show seemed racially divided, with white musicians creating rock and roll and African Americans producing hip-hop and R&B. Even as we fast-forwarded through and skipped the cruder jokes and steamier acts, we discussed how the media distorts femininity and masculinity, causing so much suffering in their generation. The boys noticed that several of the artists seemed stoned or drunk, and we talked about how musicians through the years have been felled by substance abuse -- is it because they mine painful emotions for the sake of their songs, are demolished by bad company, and/or get overwhelmed by the pressure of celebrity life?

But we weren't only sitting back and judging the show and its' participants -- we enjoyed several of the songs, were entertained by a few of the acts, and found things we liked in all the different genres of music. It lasted for over five hours and we didn't make it through the whole thing, but we did end the night in prayer, with each of us choosing and focusing on a few artists. One son prayed for the band members of Panic! at the Disco, and the other for the musician who informed the audience, "I thank God but don't know which one I believe in yet because I'm still looking for the truth." My husband picked Hype Williams, who produces many of the R&B/Hip-Hop videos, and I prayed for Beyonce, Chamillionaire, Chris Brown, and Nicole Scherzinger of the Pussycat Dolls, who all seem to hint at having roots in gospel music and the church.

Was it worth taking our teens into that troubling realm of popular culture? I think so. I pray so. The truth is, they go there anyway, even if it's not via the portal of our television. MTV has a very long arm. In the meantime, we'll keep stumbling along after Jesus, who led his own beloved disciples purposefully into the "troubling realm" of Samaria so that they could represent Him in Judea, Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.

Here are some  more resources to help you travel with your kids in the realm of television. Blog entries are cross-posted on my  weblog about parenting and pop culture, and I invite your comments and responses there.

Mitali Perkins is a freelance writer who has lived in Bangladesh, Thailand, India, Great Britain, Mexico, Ghana, Cameroon, and Austria, and has traveled extensively throughout Asia. Her fiction for youth includes Monsoon Summer, and her articles have appeared in Christianity Today, Christian Parenting Today, Discipleship Journal, Prism, U.S. Catholic, Campus Life, and Presbyterians Today. Visit her weblog at http://ambassadorfamilies.blogspot.com/ and post your comments there.