Kids today are exposed to many types of media from a very young age. Two-year-olds walk around with pretend cell phones to their ears, and older kids have traded TVs for computers and tablets to get information and entertainment.
Understanding media and how it affects our children are key for raising media-savvy kids. So what is media exactly and how do we define it?
Media is anything used to send or communicate a message. It can be visual, printed words, or a combination of the two. It can also include audio or graphic elements. There are various forms of media, including: newspapers and magazines, music and games, flyers and brochures, TV and radio, apps and the Internet.
The term "media" and how parents and children interact with media is always evolving. While media in itself is not "bad" per se, it is important to talk to your kids about it and help them identify media, understand the influence media can have, and help them be critical of it. As parents, you can also decide what to expose them to and when/how much to do so.
According to Jane Tallim, Co-Executive Director of MediaSmarts, parents can help their kids develop positive media habits from an early age. Here are some tips she offers to help raise media-savvy kids:
• Make watching TV, visiting websites, reading e-books, playing games and using apps a family activity.
• Talk to parents and visit parent websites to get advice on quality and age-appropriate media.
• Review something before your kids watch it/play it to gauge whether it's appropriate.
• Look for non-commercial media and control the amount of advertising your kids are exposed to.
• Balance media with other offline activities.
What's more, keep the dialogue open with your kids. Talk about what they're watching or doing online. Get involved and participate in the activity. Ask questions and encourage them to think about what they're playing or doing. Be sure to discuss privacy and safety issues when it comes to the Internet and learn how to navigate cyberspace together.
Don't be afraid to share your own experiences about media (both past and present) with your kids. Explore, discuss and use media together. And remember, it's ok if you don't know every type of media or have all the answers. Odds are, your kids will teach you just as much as you teach them.
Check out http://mediasmarts.ca for parental tutorials and resources on media consumption and awareness.
|Natalia Diaz is passionate about education and raising readers. She has been working in media education for the last 10 years as senior editor at Scholastic Education, as editor of Funschool.com, and as writer and producer at TVOntario and the Independent Learning Centre (ILC). Currently, she is a contributing editor for Owlkids Magazine. She lives with her family in Markham, Ontario.|