Media Access: Guarding Kids against Inappropriate Media
written by: Deb Killion
• edited by: Tricia Goss
• updated: 12/22/2014
Criminals who are just hours from execution have revealed that the influence of violent media pushed them over the edge to commit violent crimes repeatedly. Parents can take action to protect children from the potentially harmful effects of inappropriate television, games and other media.
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Parent Involvement Is Essential
In the previous post, we discussed the negative effects of inappropriate, violent media. Evidence reveals that kids are especially impressionable and can be easily influenced by suggestions in media, including bullying, aggressive behavior and even gun violence.
What can parents do? One thing is to limit access. This is not suggesting that you must completely prohibit all media or watch your kids like a hawk when they are on mobile devices. Instead, set guidelines such as the following to ensure they are not accessing inappropriate media.
Establish rules that your kids understand and implement consequences for breaking them, such as loss of mobile devices for a period.
Limit the amount of time they spend using technology and performing online activities, especially time spent on non-educational pursuits. Set a timer or use parental controls on computers and mobile devices.
Talk to kids about the importance of being safe online and avoiding activities that are risky or expose them to inappropriate media.
Use tracking software to monitor your child’s online activities. If you find something concerning, discuss this with your child.
There are many negative influences in media, online and in the “real world," so you must take an active stance to protect them from these factors. Being proactive enables you to stay on top of your child’s best interests and protect him from predators, as well as media that can influence them in negative ways.
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We Are What We Watch
Explain to your children that just as the food we eat affects us, we are what we take in with media as well. A steady diet of negative, violent imagery can increase the chances for violent or aggressive behavior in some children.
Show them the benefits of positive media from which they can learn. You don’t have to completely shield them from bad things in the world, but don’t let them habitually absorb violent TV shows, movies and video games. Games are especially influential because rather than offering a passive activity, such as watching TV shows, you are actually involved and interacting with this scenario, which is one step away from trying it in real life.
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Be a Transparent Parent
Talk to your kids regularly about your values. Tell them you want them to grow up with a positive attitude, have a great job and be happy. Here are a few other tips you can do today to be proactive about the media your children are exposed to.
Actively seek alternative media options, such as educational but entertaining DVDs that encourage them to think constructively about things they could do, such as videos on careers or science.
Find out what your child’s interest areas are and look specifically for those topics on YouTube and other sites. Bookmark specific sites that kids can use to research favorite topics, sports figures or other hobbies they may have. Often, a focused approach can prevent kids from coming across inappropriate or violent sites.
Help them pick out and shop for games so you can see monitor ratings and content. Psychologists remind parents that you should see what the goal or objective of the game is. The hero should have good intentions and be rewarded for overcoming evil. Some kids relate to “bad guys" because they think he is cool. Avoid games that glorify harmful or immoral actions. Remember the shooter in the Colorado movie theater? He related to the Batman villain, the Joker.
Join or start a parent advocacy group against media violence. The more you can get involved with others who are fighting bad media, the better chance you have to influence kids for good.
Become and remain involved in the media your kids take in, whether this is through internet, mobile devices, social media, video games or TV. Work with your child’s school and be selective in the types of media you allow your child to watch. Remember, it is influencing them, perhaps more than you realize. As with anything, good parents are engaged and active in their children’s lives. This is the key to success.
Not all media is bad. In the next post, we discuss how positive media can help your kids succeed.