Imagine if there was an extra adult in your home parenting your child. Every day from dawn to dusk, this person would give your kids information on everything from schoolwork to more personal issues, like dating and relationships. And you have no say what they told your child. In a 24/7 media environment many kids are averaging more hours spent with a media source than with a single parent. Some people call this “the other parent”.
The influence the media has on our children penetrates much deeper than most parents think. If you don’t think so, take a stroll to your kids’ rooms. Look no further than the Ariel costume in your daughter’s closet or the lightsaber in your son’s toy chest. This example shows how easily the media can influence your child to like something or someone.
At around middle school kids start to see the media as a peer looking for guidance. Parents may remain the primary influence in their kids’ lives, but the competition starts to get fierce at this age. This separation is entirely age appropriate. But when the media comes into play, the values you want to pass down to your kids may be competing against, say, Homer Simpson’s says Common Sense Media.
The media environment that families live in goes much further than television. It is ever present, 24-hours a day on the Internet, video games, social media and music. Smoking is a perfect example. A recent study showed that when kids were exposed to pro-tobacco marketing they had a greater chance of becoming smokers before turn 18.
That’s not to say that the media is a negative thing in our lives. Media provides us with limitless information, partnerships that span the world and so much more. The key is rules.
Common Sense Media shares these tips on to help parents:
Limit screen time. Kids grow and thrive best through personal interaction. Spending time with them, playing, and reading are great ways to build a foundation to impart your values.
Reinforce your values. Point out words and behavior in popular TV shows, websites, and music that are both positive and negative examples of what you do and don’t want your kids to model. What you say to your child is up to you, but have the discussion.
Embrace what they like. Rejecting your kids’ love of popular culture can close off avenues of communication. Embrace their world, but establish clear boundaries about what you find acceptable and appropriate.
Respect differences. Encourage kids this age to accept and respect people who are different by exposing them to media that includes people of diverse backgrounds.
There are plenty of positive influences in the media for our children to look up to. These influences should guide your kids to make healthy choices, learn to respect others, achieve goals, and avoid anti-social behavior. The most important thing for parents to do is to help your kids choose positive media role models who embody the values you want to pass down.