Pope Francis said all types of media — be they books, magazines, or everything online — should encourage and edify the users, not enslave them.
"Back in my day, the Stone Age, when a book was good, you read it; when the book was bad for you, you chucked it," he shared with hundreds of youth in Sarajevo on Saturday.
The Pope spent his one-day visit to the capital of the Balkan nation interacting with young people from different regions and ethnicities. Instead of reading his prepared text, he told the youth that he would rather answer some questions.
A young man said he read that the Pope stopped watching TV for many years and wanted to know what influenced him to make that decision.
The Pope said it was back in the middle of 1990 when he decided to give up on watching TV because "one night I felt that this was not doing me good, it was alienating me." He said he still watched movies, though.
"Obviously, I am from the Stone Age, I'm ancient!" the Pope joked. "Times have changed and image has become important."
"But even in this 'age of the image', people should follow the same standards that ruled back 'in the age of books': Choose the things that are good for me," Pope advised the youth. Those who produce or distribute content, like television stations, have the responsibility of choosing programs that strengthen values, that help people grow and prepare for life, "that build up society, that move us forward, not drag us down," he said.
Viewers have the responsibility of choosing what's good for them, the Pope said, adding that they should change the channel right away if it shows "filth" or "things that make [a person] vulgar."
While the quality of content is important, it is also important to limit the amount of time one spends in front of the screen, he said. "If you live glued to the computer and become a slave to the computer, you lose your freedom. And if you look for obscene programs on the computer, you lose your dignity," the Pope said.
In response to a journalist's question on his way back from Sarajevo to Rome, he said the online or virtual world is a "reality we cannot ignore; we have to lead it along a good path" and aid in the progression of humanity.
"But when this leads you away from everyday life, family life, social life, and also sports, the arts and we stay glued to the computer, this is a psychological illness," he said.
According to the Pope, negative content includes pornography and such that are "empty" and lacking of values, like programs that promote relativism, hedonism, and consumerism.
He also shared that some parents do not permit their kids to have a computer in their own room but install it in a common living area. "These are some little tips that parents find" to solve the problem of inappropriate content.