Teaching Your Child To Be Media Literate

media_literacy“Parents could once easily mold their young children’s upbringing by speaking and reading to children only about those things they wished their children to be exposed to, but today’s parents must battle with thousands of competing images and ideas over which they have little direct control.”

– Joshua Meyrowitz
Author of No Sense of Place: The Impact of Electronic Media on Social Behavior (1985, p.238)

Did you know…?

  • Young people between the ages of 8 and 18 spend an average 40 hours per week with some form of media…That’s a full-time job!
  • The typical North American youth (8 -18) lives in a home with an average 3.6 CD/tape players, 3.5 TVs, 2.9 VCRs/DVD players, 2.1 video game consoles and 1.5 computers.
  • The average child watches more than 2 ½ hours of TV per day; and one out of every six children watches more than 5 hours of TV a day.

In this media-saturated culture, the massive corporate targeting of children and young adults has led many parents to become increasingly worried about their children’s “media diet”. Teaching your child to be media literate begins early on with two simple steps: become informed and become a media literate advocate.

Become informed. This begins by taking the initiative to learn more about the influence the media has not only on our children but also on yourself. Practice critical thinking when you are watching movies, television and see advertising. Information is power and understanding the power of media contributes to wiser media usage.

Become a media literate advocate. While few parents let their children choose their own food and alcohol diets, many parents have little control over their children’s media “diet”. Teaching our children to be media literate begins early and through example. Here are some suggestions to promote family media literacy (Strasburger et al, 2002):

  • From an early age, play and read with your children as much as possible.
  • Limit consumption of screens and do not let young children have televisions or computers in their rooms.
  • Do not proscribe media but rather provide a lifestyle that engages children in a variety of activities.
  • Plan carefully, and discuss media choices with your children.
  • Censor unsatisfactory media and provide appropriate media.
  • Try to watch as a family and discuss the shows/movies as you watch them and after you watch them.
  • Give your children a sense of pride in having skills of analysis, access, evaluation and communication.