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Media Literacy

Children today are bombarded with messages from newspapers, books, magazines, billboards, television, movies, video and computer games, and music. . . .

Children today are bombarded with messages from newspapers, books, magazines, billboards, television, movies, video and computer games, and music. All too often the message is that violence is an acceptable way to deal with problems. The characters do not have to examine the consequences of their actions because the situation is not real.

Of all the media, TV may have the biggest impact on your child. The moving images and sound hold attention. The average child spends more time watching TV than any other activity but sleeping.

Even cartoons and commercials average 25 violent acts per hour. Children as young as 14 months will imitate what they see people do on TV. Most children now choose media figures as their role models--a few decades ago, most chose their parents.

Violence in books, magazines, newspapers, movies, songs, and computer and video games can also affect your children. Heroes who solve their problems with violence and engage in other risk-taking behaviors, all without any adverse effects, are not good reality models.

Much of your children's media consumption occurs outside of school. You will have the greatest influence over this source of violence. Below are some ways that you can monitor the messages your children receive from the media.

  • Make it a familiy rule that violence has no place in your home. Monitor reading materials, TV and radio programs, and games your children play.
  • Limit your child's television viewing to two hours or less per day. Plan together a weekly schedule of the programs you want to watch. Turn the TV off when the selected programs are over. Help your child interpret programs. Explain what is real and unreal, and make connections between consequences and actions.
  • Encourage your child to participate in a wide range of activities. You can require or promote other at-home activities, such as exercise, hobbies, crafts, reading, playing games, tending pets, helping with household tasks, doing homework, and writing letters. Plan some activities with your child. Set a good example by developing a variety of interests yourself.
  • Join forces to advocate for positive programming in the media. Collaborate with teachers and other parents to support positive programming and reduce violence. Write or call network and local TV stations, government regulatory agencies, advertisers, and policymakers to express your concerns.
  • Watch television with your children. Be aware of what and how much they are watching.
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