Parents & Teachers: Teens & Media
The media – it's been around for ages, but what you experienced growing up is worlds away from what your children are growing up with today. Some kids' lives are consumed by the media, and there can be very negative effects.
How does the media affect your child, and how can you set healthy media guidelines?
- Sex in the Media
According to the RAND Corporation, teens that see sex in the media are twice as likely to engage in sexual acts themselves. This statistic does not have to apply to your child. If your child does start to watch TV shows in which characters have sex, you can use the show as a learning experience to teach your child what should not happen in reality.
- Violence in the Media
You do not have to look very closely at the media in your child's life to see the presence of violence. Even when the good guy wins, it is usually because he uses violence to defeat the enemy.
Most kids know that violence is not the answer, but the media contradicts this message. You can't completely block these images from your child, but you can explain that the violence in the media is for entertainment and not realistic problem solving. It is also a good idea to check the ratings on video games to see what is appropriate for your child.
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- Obesity and the Media
Obesity is an increasing problem in America. There are many different factors that are increasing this statistic, and one of them is the media. If your children are watching TV, reading a magazine, listening to their MP3 players, or on the computer, they are probably not doing anything physically active.
Kids need physical activity everyday, so help your child think of physical alternatives to sitting in front of the TV all day. If your children watch more than two hours of TV every day, they have a higher chance of becoming obese than children who watch less TV.
A study that took 40 hours of popular shows for kids ages 6 to 11 found that almost 30% of the commercials shown were for food. Most of these ads are for fast food, sugar cereals, candy, sodas, and other foods that kids love but parents don't want their kids to have. Since kids have to go through their parents to get these foods, parents need to say no.
- School Performance and the Media
Overexposure to the media is also linked to poorer academic skills. A study reported on by Common Sense Media shows that the more media kids are exposed to, the worse they perform in school. They have smaller vocabularies, lack skills in reading, and score worse on tests. Conversely, Common Sense Media reports that the less TV people watch as kids, the more likely they are to be successful in school.
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Watching What Your Kids Watch
Pay attention to the TV shows or video games your child is watching or playing, and you might be surprised. Most characters on TV shows (74%) are Caucasian, while 64% of the characters in video games are males.
In addition to this blurred reality, women are portrayed with ultra-thin and "ideal" bodies show men with over-the-top defined muscles. These stereotypes can give your child the wrong message about what the rest of the world looks like.
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Tips for Media Safety & Health
Listed below are some tips for you and your family regarding media safety and health.
- Don't have any media present during dinner time or other meal times.
- Don't eat in front of the TV, and don't have the TV on in the background.
- Focus on the people around you.
- Get rid of all media while your children are doing homework.
- Set aside a part of your children's day for media, and keep the rest of your day separate.
- Do not let them go over their limit.
- Common Sense Media suggests that children should not have more than one or two hours in front of a screen – that means TV, computer, movies, etc. – each day.
- Do not put media in your children's bedrooms.
- Keep it in the kitchen, family room, or living room – not in their bedrooms where you cannot monitor it.
- Even if your children will be home without you, make sure that they obey the media rules in your house.
- This means telling a babysitter about the rules your children must follow or letting your older child be in charge of his or her younger siblings.
- Once your kids' media limit is up, have them find something to do that is active or uses their brain.
- One suggestion is for each minute your kid is exposed to the media, they have to spend one minute doing something active either mentally or physically.
- Encourage them to read or play outside.
- When you see a commercial or advertisement, think about who it is targeting, if it is successful, what makes it appealing or not, and if it is realistic.
- Talk to your kids about the marketing strategies so that they are aware.
- When you see something through the media, think if it is logically something that could exist in real life – such as the appearance of a character, the way a product is being used in an advertisement, or the actions of a character. Talk about it with your kids.
- Be able to separate fiction and fantasy from reality in the media, and use your judgment as to how things are being marketed to your children.
- There are parental controls you can use.
- Some of these include blocking certain channels or shows with certain ratings, or taping a show and previewing it yourself before allowing your child to watch it.
- Set a good example for your children.
- It is not OK for you to watch TV for hours if your child is only allowed to watch TV for a half hour each day.
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high school student writer
- Children's TV habits linked to adult obesity, Daily Mail Online.
- Food Related TV ads & Kids, American Journal of Public Health.
- Association of Television Viewing During Childhood With Poor Educational Achievement, JAMA Pediatrics.
- Media Violence and Kids, Common Sense Media.
Reviewed by: Adolescent Interest Group
Last reviewed: August 2013