Keep Your Kids Safe by Being Media-Wise
By Jim Burns
These days, our kids are being bombarded by messages from a variety of media sources: television, movies, radio, magazines, the Internet – and let’s not forget the entire entertainment industry. It’s no secret that the media’s messages that our kids listen to, watch, and read have a powerful influence on their lives. Unfortunately, the messages are often lies the media portrays as healthy, normal behavior among kids today.
Parents often avoid addressing the issue of media and kids because we don’t know what to do. But, we need to role up our sleeves, and get to work helping our kids make right and wise decisions about media. Don’t give up. Don’t bail out. There are things you can do to improve the media health of your family. You can keep your kids safe by becoming and staying media-wise. Here are some tips for handling some of the media your kids are interacting with.
Taming the Tube
The television is not a baby sitter. Hopefully, parents are extremely careful about choosing a baby sitter and day care for their children. Why are we not as careful about choosing the TV programs our kids watch?
- Know what shows your kids are watching on television. It is vitally important to know the content of every program you child watches. As a rule, most programs will either work to reinforce your values or oppose them. This is why it is so important to be aware of a program’s content.
- Don’t put a television in your their bedrooms. A television in your child’s bedroom is a big no-no. You won’t be able to monitor the content, and your kids may be drawn to their rooms at the expense of family interaction. A television in the bedroom is a far too attractive temptation for your kids.
- Set limits on TV time. What are your guidelines, rules, and expectations for television viewing? Setting limits may be challenging, but -- with consistency -- the results are well worth it.
- Talk with your kids about TV shows. All television is educational. The question is, what does it teach? Watch television with your kids, and then debrief the themes and content afterward. You’ll be surprised just how easy it is to turn a mediocre program or movie into a first-rate learning experience.
Navigating the Internet
The Internet will have more influence on your family quite possibly than the television had on your parents’ homes. Your children are growing up with one of the most incredible tools ever invented. Like it or not, your kids will use it as a way of life.
Whether you are Web savvy today doesn’t matter, but by tomorrow you had better be on your way to becoming an expert. Just because my elderly dad doesn’t trust an ATM machine doesn’t mean that his children don’t use them.
The Web is wonderful, but it is dangerous. Learn all you can about the internet and make it your friend. Just like friends at school, it will either be a positive influence on your children or a negative one. Never been has there been a time when the world had greater access to positive information and negative influences. For example, the U.S. Customs Service estimated in 2002, that there are more than 100,000 Web sites offering child pornography alone – which is illegal – worldwide. Further, an MSNBC survey in 2000, indicated that 25 Million Americans visit internet sex Web sites between 1 and 10 hours, per week!
Following, are a few steps you can take to help ensure that the Web is your friend.
- Consider a quality Web filter for children and young teens.
- Keep the computer with online access out of your child’s room.
- Keep the computer with online access in a "public" part of your home.
- Remind your child not to give out any personal information over the Web without your permission.
- Teach your kids to report inappropriate online interactions to you right away.
Tuning into Music
Another one of the greatest influences in your child’s life is music. Don’t buy the story that your kids don’t listen to the words. Musicians have a great deal of influence on our culture. Listen to what they listen to!
When our kids were teenagers living at home, Cathy and I believed that because of the powerful influence of music, we had a God-given responsibility to review and, yes, even approve what words our children listened to in our home. We had a policy that we would listen to all CDs brought into the house. Sure it took a great deal of time listening to some styles of music that weren’t our favorite, but we knew it was necessary to learn what our kids were listening to.
Taking a Look at Magazines
Many kids regularly read magazines targeted at pre-teens and teens. Don’t think, however, that just because these magazines are targeted at your child’s age, that all of the content inside will be age-appropriate. Magazine publishers often push the limit content-wise in order to attract and keep their target audiences coming back for more. A wise parent will read what their kids are reading. You’ll gain a much better understanding of the issues your kids are facing and who is influencing them.
Most likely, every parent reading this article wants to help their kids develop healthy morals and values. Still, most are frightened by the amount of negative distractions and temptations our kids are being exposed to by various forms of media. You won’t be able to protect your kids from every negative form. Instead, prepare them to be able to discern and make wise decisions about the messages they receive. With proactive parenting in addressing media issues – including proper education, good examples, and a positive faith, your kids can make it through the maze of negative media influences and develop positive morals and values.
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