Friday, July 3, 2015

How can I help my child navigate the media world?

Here are some great websites and apps that will help you to protect your children from the harmful effects of the media.

How can I help my child navigate the media world?

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Have you ever thought about how much time your child spends with the media (in front of a TV, computer, smart phone, or video game screen)?

Fact: The average 8-year-old child spends 7 hours a day with some form of digital entertainment. That’s 49 hours a week….a full time job!

They get home from school and watch their favorite TV shows, play videogames for a few hours, watch YouTube videos, look up the Facebook status of their friends, send a few text messages, and fall asleep at 11 pm with the TV still on. It’s too much. Their lives are bombarded by media exposure.

The typical child spends more time in front of a screen than they do with their parents or with their school teachers. As a result, the media has remarkable influence on children and teens. How can a parent compete with 49 hours a week of highly engaging entertainment? It’s almost impossible.

So what’s the big deal? Every hour of time spent in front of an electronic device is a wasted opportunity.  This time could have been better spent exercising, socializing with friends, reading, getting ahead on school work, or spending time with parents or siblings. Even worse, these TV shows, movies and video games may glorify sex, drug use, violence and unhealthy food choices. In fact, children who watch TV excessively are more likely to have problems with obesity, drug use, unsafe sex, aggressive behavior, school problems, and attention deficit disorder. I wish that I was exaggerating, but these facts are well-supported by the research.

Parents may try their best to have important conversations with children about important life issues, but unless the media reinforces your opinions, these lessons will be quickly forgotten.

So what can parents do? My first recommendation is to reduce the amount of media that you allow your children to view (less than 2 hours a day). However, I recognize that many parents are not willing or it can be difficult to cut down. Since media is part of our daily lives, here are some great websites and apps that will help you to protect your children from the harmful effects of the media.

1) www.commonsensemedia.org: This website, and it’s associated app (“kidsmedia”) will provide you with a detailed preview of the sex, drugs, violence, and educational value of almost every TV show, videogame, movie, and app that currently exists. It is much more reliable than the currently existing rating systems. It will give you a recommended viewing age and offer ideas on how to talk with your children about any disturbing content. For example, in a recent review of the movie “neighbors”, it suggests that parents ask their kids about the real life consequences of drinking and drug use.

2) PBS.org: This is a wonderful site that provides age-based advice on how to use the media in a positive way.

3) www.Ikeepsafe.org (and the associated app: “be a pro parent” ): This website will quiz you on your media savviness. It uses your incorrect answers to help you to create a better balance in how you allow your children to use the media.

What is YOUR best advice for other parents when it comes to the media? Can you suggest any helpful websites or books?


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The Healthy Kids blog is your window into the latest news, research and advice around children's health. Learn more about our growing list of contributors here.

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Anna Nguyen Healthy Kids blog Editor
Sarah Levin Allen, Ph.D., CBIS Assistant Professor of Psychology at Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine
Stephen Aronoff, M.D., M.B.A. Chair of the Department of Pediatrics at Temple University Hospital
Peter Bidey, D.O. Medical Director of Family Medicine at Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine
Christopher C. Chang, MD, PhD, MBA, FAAAAI, FACAAI Associate Professor of Medicine in division of Rheumatology, Allergy and Clinical Immunology at UC Davis
Katherine K. Dahlsgaard, Ph.D. Lead Psychologist of The Anxiety Behaviors Clinic at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia
Gary A. Emmett, M.D., F.A.A.P Director of Hospital Pediatrics at TJU Hospital & Pediatrics Professor at Thomas Jefferson Univ.
Magee DeFelice, M.D. Division Chief of Allergy and Immunology at Nemours/Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children
Hazel Guinto-Ocampo, M.D. Chief of Pediatric Emergency Services at Nemours duPont Pediatrics/Bryn Mawr Hospital
Rima Himelstein, M.D. Adolescent Medicine Specialist at Crozer-Keystone Health System
Jessica Kendorski, PhD, NCSP, BCBA-D Associate Professor in School Psychology/Applied Behavior Analysis at Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine
Anita Kulick President & CEO, Educating Communities for Parenting
Janet Rosenzweig, MS, PhD, MPA VP for Programs & Research for Prevent Child Abuse America
Beth Wallace Smith, R.D. Registered Dietitian at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia
Emiliano Tatar, M.D. Pediatrician at Einstein Healthcare Network Roxborough Plaza
Jeanette Trella, Pharm.D Managing Director at The Poison Control Center at CHOP
W. Douglas Tynan, Ph.D., ABPP Director of Integrated Health Care for American Psychological Association
Flaura Koplin Winston, M.D., Ph.D. Scientific Director of the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia’s Center for Injury Research and Prevention
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