Media education basics
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, parents need to set limits and be actively involved with the TV shows, computer games, magazines, Internet and other media that children use. But this is only one step in helping media play a positive role in children's lives. Because media surrounds us and cannot always be avoided, one way to filter their messages is to develop the skills to question, analyze, and evaluate them. This is called media literacy or media education.
Basic media education tips:
- Be critical viewers. Talk about the TV programs you watch: Who made the shows? What are the shows trying to say? How could they be different?
- Question all sources of information. Think about how you know what you know: Is your view based on only one news show or magazine article? Since every source has its own point of view, itís best not to rely on just one.
- Analyze advertisements. Ads promote more than products. Notice the unstated messages ads convey, such as what is beautiful or why something is desirable. Children should compare the promoted values against their own values. It is
important for children to learn that they have a choice in whether to accept the
values that are being promoted in any media message.
- Speak out against stereotypes in the media. Have an ongoing talk with children about how certain people and cultures are
shown in the media. What’s wrong with always showing cultures or genders in the same limited way? Keep track of which groups are left out of television and movies.
- Be creative! Creating your own shows with digital cameras or camcorders can make your family sharper critics of the programs, video games and movies that professionals create.
Media can have positive effects, if parents and caregivers:
Set limits. Know how many hours your children spend watching TV and videotapes, playing video and computer games, and surfing the Internet. One way to do this is to use a timer. When the timer goes off, your child's media time is up, no exceptions. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no more than 1 to 2 hours of quality TV and videos a day for older children and no screen time for children under the age of 2. All media usage is often more habit than choice.
- Create a media plan. Encourage your children to plan their media use. Help children choose shows, videos, and video games that are appropriate for their level of understanding. Watch with them and talk about the programs afterward. Explain situations that are confusing. Ask why any violent scenes occurred and how painful they were. Ask your child for ideas about ways the conflict could have been resolved without violence.
- Express your views. Call your local television station when you are offended or pleased by something on television. Stations, networks, and sponsors are all concerned about the effects of television viewing on children and are responsive to parents' concerns.
- Spend time with your children on the Internet. Monitor where your child goes and who they "talk" to online. Children need to be protected online. They are "clicks" away from being exploited by advertisers and exposed to violence, sex, adult language, and substance use.
Check for online ratings to help you assess violence, sex, language, and "adult" material. One way to protect your child online is to use Internet-blocking programs.
Make it a rule to never give out personal information online. This includes your child's name, address, phone number, school name or location, facts about parents and siblings, or favorite products. Ask your kids to take the Internet Safety Quiz. Teens can visit SafeTeens.com to learn the basic rules of online safety.
- Find creative alternatives to TV, video games and the Internet. Find and check out books that interest your child using the Denver Public Library's BookBuzz book review database. Learn about the importance of play in your child's life and introduce new games found on the Library's Power of Play page. Avoid childhood health problems associated with media overuse by staying active outside; go for a walk, pick up a new sport, or explore nature.
- Children are influenced by their parents' actions. It is important that whatever effort you make to exercise more, eat healthier or watch less TV, it be done as a family.