With the youth adopting technology and media at unfathomable rates, a large section of today’s children are connected to the internet, watch reality shows, have a presence on various social media platforms or own personal laptops, tablets, cell phones, iPods and MP3 devices.
Young children are particularly vulnerable to being influenced and are unable to demarcate reality from the make-believe. Inundated with media that is heavy on a dose of wealth and materialism, these children get the message early and presume that the way to distinguish themselves is with money, or with fame.
Since children are very impressionable, access to provocative content, toxic value messages and other media forms – that children don’t necessarily have the maturity to process – have led to a significant increase in social problems in the form of adolescent sexual behaviour, cyber bullying, violence and other forms of psychological and social stress.
So should we as parents moderate our children’s media intake? Or what can we as leading-edge adults do to detoxify them from an excessive intake?
A simple answer to this would be to “Get Engaged”.
Get Engaged to ‘Train your Eye’
We need to train our eye on all media or messages floating around. This means we need get engaged in identifying media messages that display unwarranted behaviour, toxic messages, or unsavoury role models or images so that we can guide our children in an appropriate manner.
Needless to say, in this age of constantly streaming media, even children need our help to filter out content that may seem scary or confusing to them. Hence, this also means that we need to help moderate our child’s media input and encourage and guide them to make positive media choices.
Chalking out a Family Media Plan
Make a plan that is clear and consistent, and sticking to it. The family media plan is a one that should outline when your children can watch television or browse the internet, what shows are permissible and what is off-limits (such as reality shows) — keeping in mind that there should always be a healthy space of discussion in between so that your children feel free to express their voice and concerns. This is also about making smart media choices.
The Path of Taking Small Steps
The path of being a parent is an epic one, and is made up of so many small, healthy and important steps towards being media friendly.
Small steps towards interjecting into sitcoms and explaining what is real and what is ‘make believe’ in media.
Small steps toward suggesting getting into a healthy habit of watching educational channels such as ‘Cbeebies’ or ‘Animal Planet’ instead of ‘Hanna Montana’ or ‘Nicklodeon’.
Small steps of discussing and sharing your views, and to consult intelligent places for guidance relative to child development and the media.
Small steps in mindfully guiding your kid that they may have thousands of ‘friends’ on Facebook, but that only dilutes the true essence of bonding and friendship; and our need to have fruitful interactions.
Steps in finding ways to have your children spend more time in the outdoors where they are able to nurture healthier habits and take home some fascinating learning’s in socializing and emotional bonding.
Access to High Quality programs
There are ways by which a parent can effectively use media to educate and empower a child’s healthy development. Choosing high quality music, video, television and Internet are some of them.
Studies have shown that positive parenting initiatives as above can lead children to have a healthy self image, tolerance, knowledge acquisition and positive social behaviour. A good example can be that is your family plans to go to Europe or any new country this summer, you can help pick educational videos or maps, or places of interest and sight-seeing for your child so that he/she can begin learning about the culture, climate, geography or history of the places you plan to visit.
So as smart, and savvy parents and adults alike, if is up to us to cultivate ‘media healthy’ ideas so that our children can learn to develop and make smart media choices.