Young people are growing up in an increasingly media-rich environment. We need to be aware of the influence it is having on them.
Our children are surrounded by media and are influenced by the messages they receive. We need to be aware and involved.
Their daily lives are punctuated by television, films, DVD the Internet, console games, the music industry, radio, pop and concept videos.
Children spend a significant amount of time watching television. Is it time well spent? We know that educational videos and CD-ROMs are invaluable teaching devices. In some disadvantaged settings, the television becomes not just the babysitter but the key educator too. It may even be that certain child-friendly television may add to a child’s feelings of well being, lessening isolation and releasing stress.
The Internet has great potential for providing children and youth with access to educational information, and can be compared to a huge home library.
A jury convicted 3 British teenagers of torturing a 15 year old to death. The boys acted out a torture scene from the violent thriller "Reservoir Dogs" where an evil criminal 'has fun' biting off his victim's ear while beating him. David Alton is a prominent campaigner against screen violence urged that the rules on selling or renting violent films to children ought to be overhauled. David Alton said: "These boys should never have seen this film in the first place."
- The World Wide Web is a forum for uncensored, free speech. There is plenty of unpleasant material on the Internet. (In fact pornography has been responsible for fuelling and paying for much of the growth in the web)
- TV advertising, is subtle and reinforced by repetition of images and stereotyping. After Sweden banned advertising alcohol on TV in the mid 1970s consumption decreased by 20%.
- Games consoles appeal mostly to teenage boys. They love the high action, 'thrills and spills' adventures that dominate Internet gaming. Games like these may heighten their problem solving skills but little is known about the long terms effects of video and Internet game playing and many of the most popular video games feature violence in a big way.
- Concept and Pop videos often feature sexual imagery, violence and sexism. Many show stereotypical images of women as 'objects' and violence as a means of conflict resolution.
- Magazines said to be marketed to 18 - 21 year olds containing explicit sexual content are actually bought and read by girls in their early teens. The articles and features re-enforce a culture which insists that to be of any value one has to be both beautiful, rich and sexually active. Many parents are unaware of the content of such magazines.
- Make the most of the Media. Remember you can use the TV news or disaster films in a very positive way.
- Open a discussion. "What do you think about that story?" or "it was terrible to watch the fire burn down that house." Be honest and reassuring while reinforcing safety messages. If your child asks, "Could our house burn down, too?" answer truthfully, but also reassure your child that you take all the precautions to reduce such a risk. Emphasise positive aspects of a tragic event. Whether children hear about a major explosion, an earthquake, or a flood, it's important they hear about how well the public, and the emergency services responded. Follow up on a news story by reading newspapers or magazines together. (Based on : 5 ways to use the news by Maija Johnson)
- If you are serious about monitoring what your children watch it may be a good idea to keep TV sets, DVD players and computers in a room used by all the family rather than the child’s bedroom. Where young people already have TVs and computers in their bedrooms parents may be even more motivated to ensure that their children are both media-smart and web-wise.
- Play 'Spot the subliminal messaging' when you are watching TV or films (particularly soaps) encourage each other to identify products in the camera shot which are being silently promoted. Do certain 'types' of people or individuals use certain products? What is being inferred by this?
- How many brands of beer or cigarettes can a pre-teen name? This is a great way to begin talking about the power of advertising. Discuss the health risks associated with these products and note if the adverts leave out that information.
- Explore how the media uses music to make people feel a range of emotions. Play a video clip with the volume turned down and then play it again with the sound. Talk together about how the sound track altered the way viewers felt.
- Critique the home pages of a few random web sites. Look at the headlines, graphics, use of colour, layout and fonts. How do these affect choice? How soon is it before you exit? Which sites have the best content? Did quality of visual images ensure quality of information?
- Watch a music video with your child. What stories are the pictures telling? Does the story on screen match the meaning of the words in the song? How does the video make them feel? Are there any stereotypical, violent or sexual images in the video? Is there any tobacco, alcohol or drug use? If so how are these things portrayed?
- Be clear and consistent with children about media rules. If you do not approve of their media choice, explain why. When they are very young you may be able to help them choose something more appropriate. With teenagers you may only be able to use the occasion to voice your own values and opinions, remembering always, of course, to invite them to share theirs.
- Check out some teenage magazines - what messages are they giving to teens? Do you know what your pre-teen or teenager is reading?
- How often does your teenager go to the cinema? Is this something that could be a shared activity and one in which the merits and messages of the film can be talked about later?