The effects of media influence on our children are profound. Television, music, movies, video games, the internet, and now social media are just pounding our kids with thousands of impressions per month. How the media influences our children can shape their development, their self-esteem, and their interactions with others. We have several screens in our home so we are not immune to this influence either, but I do believe there are ways we can manage it effectively.
Posts like this are often filled with statistics, and statistics can be made to show whatever the creator wants them to say. I’ll leave it to you to research those on your own and decide which ones are most credible. I just have to throw this one in, though – according to Common Sense Media, kids up to age 8 spend an average of over two hours per day with some type of screen media. That is a lot of media influence when you consider that this age group sleeps an average of ten hours a day or more.
I’ll give you my thoughts on how media influence shapes and forms young minds around the following seven key areas. Afterwards, I’ll close with a few tips on how to better manage your child’s media usage.
Education. It’s no secret that media is a huge distraction for our children. In my childhood, the most common media influence on education was listening to music while doing your homework. Today that has evolved into the television in the background, text messages flying in on cell phones, and half a dozen tabs open on your child’s computer screen. Distractions lead to a lack of focus and concentration, which creates mistakes and haste in completing projects and assignments.
Sexuality. Let’s face it, soft porn images are everywhere. Simple searches for images reveal pictures that simply should not be in front of your children. Plus, sexuality is glorified on television, in movies, and on the internet, and these impressions are indelibly imprinted on our child’s brain.
Body image. The unrealistic and unhealthy body shapes and sizes depicted in the media can be very damaging to a young girl’s self-esteem. Plus, children begin to think that they have to wear the clothes and outfits that they see on television in order to fit in.
Perception of others. We all see how parents, particularly fathers, are portrayed in some of the popular sitcoms on television. This message goes into the home and can have a lasting impact on a child’s respect for their parents.
Language. Obviously vulgarity and obscene language has infiltrated the airwaves. A new trend in some of the shows targeted at younger children is the substitution of new words where a curse word might otherwise appear. This type of language comes out in young children between themselves and between them and adults.
Violence and respect for the law. Much like sexuality, the amount of violence on television, video games, and movies is at an all-time high. This dangerous media influence can desensitize a child to the tragic outcomes often associated with this type of violence. Children can begin to see law enforcement officials as “the enemy” and treat them as such into their teenage years.
Advertising and brand image. Companies everywhere know that brand recognition is everything. The amount of advertising and number of impressions are a carefully orchestrated attempt to get your child hooked on their brand. What’s more, your child gets the message that they just can’t live without the product being pitched.
So what’s a parent to do? Here are a few simple, common-sense tips that parents can put into play in their home:
- Don’t use the screen as a babysitter. Participate with your kids when they are in front of the screen. Knowing what they’re watching can help you teach them to make better choices.
- Introduce limits. Screen media, particularly television, is often a passive activity. Ensure that your children are getting an adequate amount of creative play time and physical activity.
- Bring back the classics. Some of the older television shows had a more wholesome appeal for a broader audience. Remember that although these might be old to you, they are fresh and new to your child.
- Pay attention to the ratings. In addition, check out other family media rating sites for guidance and reviews from other parents. Just remember there is no substitute for previewing the content yourself.
Screen media is here to stay, and the availability to consume this type of content will continue to grow. By teaching your child healthy habits at an early age, you can have a positive impact on how media influences their growth and development.
Application Question: Do you create a healthy balance between media consumption and other activities for your child? What additional tips do you have to share? Comments are welcome!
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