Kids and the Media (Should You be Worried?)

by Sesame Lane Admin on 8/05/2017 4:05:28 PM
Before they can recognise the numbers 1 to 10 your child may know the Golden Arches. Should you be worried, are they brainwashed? Or are there good sides to media?
 
Kids are now growing up in a world where they interact with the media daily. They won’t be able to get through school without the media. So how do you teach them the difference between an advert and real life?
 
The influence you have on your child’s understanding of the media, and how it is used is really important.
Focus on quality, not quantity
 
There’s a huge difference between your little one watching educational TV and watching hours of news footage. Your focus should be on the quality of the media your child consumes rather than the amount of hours.
 
TV itself isn’t bad. And educational content has proven to have positive effects on children. Sesame Street for example is aimed at pre-schoolers and most definitely assists with learning. You can also use TV to help your kids learn another language!

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The world is your oyster when it comes to educational content, it can have an incredibly positive influence on your child’s development. They are created to keep children engaged and can expose them to:
 
  • Other cultures, traditions and lifestyles
  • Different sports and outdoor activities
  • Nature and Science
 
They can also inspire your little ones to try something new and have a little more confidence in their own abilities. Certain TV programmes, apps and games can help with numeracy, literacy and social skills.
 
Also, nowadays media can be a magical tool for your child to interact with. Have a relative on the other side of the world, or a parent who travels a lot? Then video-chatting is a saving grace for keeping connected. Using certain types of media as social tools are great things for your kids to learn.
 
If you keep an eye on the type of media your child consumes you needn’t be worried.
 
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The Dangerous Side of the Media

 
Although there are definite positives to certain areas of the media, it’s important to know the negatives. But being aware of this as a parent can help you avoid the risks.
 
Kids who consume too much media are:
 
  • Less active
  • At a higher risk of obesity
  • More likely to develop issues with their vision
  • Less socially developed
  • At a higher risk of behavioral issues
  • Exposed to a distorted view of the world too early
 
What does this mean? A limited amount of kid’s TV, great. Watching the news and more adult based content, not so great. As you know the early years of a child’s life are the most important for brain development, and consuming the wrong type of media can seriously affect this.
 
Basically, the later you can introduce TV the better. And the same goes for exposure to advertising.
 
Although this is the tough one, as it’s nearly impossible to escape. Even nursery rhyme videos on YouTube are filled with adverts.

But there are some simple ways to avoid advertising.
 
  • Record their favorite shows and watch later skipping through the adverts 
  • Watch catch-up TV or invest in a streaming service such as Netflix  

If neither are an option you should limit the amount of time they have in front of the TV or tablet screen and then have an open dialogue about adverts and what they’re used for.
 

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How to Talk about Advertising

 
The amount of adverts your kids are exposed to can cause real problems (often for you), particularly when it comes to special times of the year like Christmas or birthdays. They see something on an advert and they want it. And boy do you know about it!
 
But how do you talk to them about it? How do you make your children understand that it’s not real life?
 
In all honesty, this isn’t something you need to worry about until your kids are a little older.
 
  • Children under the age of 2 can’t tell the difference between a TV programme and an advert
  • Kids from 3-6 know the difference but don’t understand that they’re selling stuff
  • From about the age of 7 your child will both understand the advert and remember what it is telling them.
 
Although if your little one is demanding items from an advert from an earlier age then you should start talking about it sooner.
 
Encourage your child to talk about why they think there are adverts.
 
  • What are they usually selling?
  • What is it for?
  • Who is it for?
  • Why would they buy it?
 
You can then start to discuss the fact that people get paid to make these adverts, it’s their job, and if their adverts aren’t any good then they won’t have a job anymore. It may seem like a complex conversation to have, but children are a lot more receptive to complex ideas than they let on.
 
By the time your child is a teenager they can pretty much make up their own mind about products. But all kids react differently to advertising so it’s an important conversation to have.
 
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Avoid Burying Your Head in the Sand

 
It can be seriously daunting to try and talk about the monster that is the media, but the fact is the sooner you have an open conversation about it, the better. Asking your kids what they think about the media and advertising is the best way to get them thinking about it critically, not just consuming it.
 
You want your kids to question things, to be open and thoughtful about the things they see and hear and media should be no different. The best kind of defence is a great offense (as they say) so plan ahead. Remember to do this by:
 
  • Limiting TV time for younger children
  • Reducing their exposure to adverts through streaming apps/catch up TV
  • Talking about advertising when you think it’s appropriate
 
Talking about both the positives and negatives of media as a family is a sure fire way to keep your kids in the know. The more clued up they are about it from an early age, the smarter they’ll stay as they grow.