Parenting and Media
How Exposure to Media Influences the Manner in Which Children and Adolescents Develop
In today’s world, children and adolescents are having their experiences arbitrated by the media outlets (Ward, 2005). The children are most often likely to experience their first feeling of fear when they watch a scary movie or program, form some non-familial attachments when they view their favorite characters, and may even begin to develop emotional empathy when following programs that feature the adventures of well-liked media leading characters. The same case applies to adolescents, and due to the reason that they spend so much of their time on media, much of their social lives unfold in from of a television, computer display or mobile phone. It is estimated that children around six years utilize much of their time on media than playing outdoors, showing that most of the children and adolescent’s social lives no longer revolve around face to face contact with other persons (Villani, 2001).
Research has proven that, carefully chosen media for the consumption of children and adolescents have a myriad of developmental benefits to them (Ward, 2005). For younger children, the media can promote the development of literally skills, like learning about vowels and the letters of the alphabet, through computer games or programs like play school. They are also able to develop their numeracy skills, numbers and counting, through computer software.
For other children, the media can enhance the development of intellectual capabilities like problem solving and critical thinking skills, through computer games and develop morals through comparisons made between reality families and those found in fiction programs (Strasburger, 2009). The media aids in educational benefits, such as encouraging reading, especially where a program they just watched is based on a movie. The media can also lead to creative development in children through imagination, art and modeling, and music by use of computer software.
For adolescents, the media can help them enhance their development in reading, writing, and critical thinking skills through internet blogs, chat rooms, and news sites (Strasburger, 2009). They can also develop social and political awareness by watching documentaries and news, and through social networking sites. At this stage of development, the media also plays a big role in sexual socialization.
The media can help children and adolescents to enhance the development of their emotional and social capabilities, to actively participate in their culture, through the acquisition of norms, rules, and values. The media presents the popular culture through the movie, Internet, and TV programs (Strasburger, 2009). They are in a position to view, understand, form connections, and emulate what they watch on the screens, such as relationships in families, peer groups and the wider society, in terms of parents, teachers, peers, friends, and siblings. They are also in a position to bring in their own personalities, temperaments, and cognitive capabilities to distinct social situations. This way, the media enhances the thinking processes, memory, and understanding of emotions through the appreciation of norms and the standards of conduct, and how to relate to different situations in the society.
On the other hand, the media can send negative messages to the children and adolescents, such as dieting, violence, and drug abuse (Ward, 2005). For instance, adolescent girls may be swayed that “thin is beautiful,” which may make them develop eating disorders and even suffer from anorexia. The adolescents may also be swayed into using tissue fillers and breast implants, for which they do not have money to afford, which may lead to the development of other social problems like theft.
Identifying and Describing Parental Actions and Strategies, Which Contribute to the Positive Benefits of Media Use and Reducing the Negative Ones
The media is a tool for learning as it gives children and adolescents an opportunity to explore diversity in places, animals, people, ideas, subjects and cultures, they could otherwise not see or connect with in reality. Therefore, the media is an investment of parents in their children that should be carefully selected because they stand to learn, be inspired to try out new activities, and engage in new ideas for their development in different perspectives.
It is particularly more helpful when a parent gets involved with their children in their utilization of the media, as they will be able to enhance the benefits and also reduce the risks of exposure (Villani, 2001). The parent can help direct the child in visiting quality websites together, encouraging the child to use educational software, watching television shows that provide extra educational opportunities, and engaging in interactive discussions. The involvement of the parent in discussions about plot, moral lessons, and the child’s feeling about what they have watched, and the real life consequences about certain actions, that could be good, wrong, or illegal, can help children think critically about their lives and their role as fruitful members of the society.
Since making decisions on the quality of media material to be consumed by children and adolescents can be tricky, parents can take guidance from age classification that is usually presented at the beginning of the TV programs or movies or computer games (Ward, 2005). The parents can also check out the music, TV programs, computer games or celebrities their children like, to enable them easily identify the images or messages that are more likely to influence their children. They can then proceed to proactively talk to their children about these images and messages; for instance, in the TV show Gossip Girl, the parent could discuss with his/her child about what being “mean” means and its impact on other peoples’ feelings.
The parents should monitor their children’s media choices but this should not mean banning them from watching their favorite programs or playing computer games (Villani, 2001). It should just be aimed at making them more aware about the information they are consuming and the impact it has on their lives. It is important for the parent to regularly involve the child in these discussions and also be able to limit the amount of media consumption by the child through watching or playing. On the other hand, the parents might choose to prohibit particular TV programs or computer games that might be advancing violent themes. In doing so, the parents should be in a position to explain the details to their children and sometimes be ready to negotiate the issue(s) with them (Villani, 2001).
Parents can also play a big role in helping their children to interpret media through making suggestions and questioning (Villani, 2001). The parents could pick out one type of media like a magazine and ask their children the person behind a particular article, their motivation, what they can learn from them or what feeling and why they have it for a certain advert on the television. Parents should encourage their children to question themselves why they like certain people (TV role models) and whether they think the information they get is realistic.
Generally, a parent could help their children to balance the media influences by encouraging relationships and interactions that involve real people. The parents can introduce their children to real-life, positive role models through local community groups, and mentoring programs among many others
Strasburger, V. C. (2009). Children, adolescents, and the media. Sage.
Villani, S. (2001). Impact of media on children and adolescents: a 10-year review of the research. Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, 40(4), 392-401.
Ward, L. M. (2005). Children, adolescents, and the media: The molding of minds, bodies, and deeds. New directions for child and adolescent development, 2005(109), 63-71.