Judith Xavier outlines how you can help your child to navigate media is a safe, smart way.
Try this simple experiment the next time you head out of your home: Count the number of times that you encounter media on the way to your destination. The reality may surprise you. The truth is, we are bombarded by media every waking moment – whether we realise it or not. While adults may have the ability to filter the unceasing barrage of messages that come our way, children need our guidance in processing the vast amount of media content around. With the number of children accessing social media and the internet rising steeply in recent years, there is also an urgent need to teach children the necessary skills to evaluate the media they come across.
With careful thought and planning, parents can be their child’s most persuasive influence when navigating media.
Provide age appropriate boundaries
It can be tempting to provide your child with greater exposure to the various forms of media currently available – particularly if you didn’t grow up with these options yourself. However, child experts stress that screen time should be limited, particularly for younger children, with clear and consistent boundaries being set for your child’s media use. For a younger child, this might include vetting cartoons and shows that the child watches, and using an ad blocker when accessing online content, to avoid ads from popping up on the screen. For a tween or teen, parents should consider setting boundaries on what, when and for how long they can access specific types of media, for entertainment and information.
Role model healthy media habits
The hard truth is that children will do as we do, and not as we say! All the media boundaries set will not make a dent in your child’s consciousness, if they do not see their parents walking the walk. Be mindful of your own media habits; do you find it hard to put away your mobile devices during family-time? Are you watching media that is in line with your values? Modifying your own media habits will ensure that your child picks up healthy attitudes and behaviours in their own media consumption.
Have conversations about media
It is just as important for parents to have discussions around media, with their children rather than shielding from it completely. Seize every opportunity to chat about media that you might come across together– whether it is an ad, a television show or even a website. As a basic guide, you will want to discuss with your child:
- What is this media telling me?
- Why is it telling me that?
- Is this message true? Is this message in line with our values?
Using these real-life examples will help your child to immediately and clearly grasp how they can sift through various media messaging.
Do you remember a time before we ‘Googled’ everything to verify it? With the rise of the internet and online search engines becoming our default source of information, our children are usually not taught the skill of cross-referencing information and validating it, before accepting it as truth. This puts them at great risk of accepting false information as long as it is packaged attractively. Teach your child about multiple sources of information, and emphasise the importance of verifying everything that is shared in the media.
Above all, emphasise the value of real-life relationships with your children. Fostering strong bonds with family and friends, will provide your children with a true picture of real-life, and help them to identify the disconnect between reality and the fictional world portrayed by the media.
Focus on the Family Singapore Limited is a local charity with Institution of a Public Character (IPC) status dedicated to helping families thrive by being a voice for Family. We partner individuals and organizations to nurture families at different life stages through transformational family life education, trusted resources, content placements and counseling.