Friday, November 16, 2012

Media - Friend or Foe?

     Thinking back 20+ years to when the children in my charge were young, we limited the amount of television that they watched to a few shows during the day which were usually educationally based. They loved Sesame Street, Mr. Rogers, Blues Clues - it was the type of programming that we all felt good about and we watched together. We listened to a variety of music including classical, jazz, show tunes, and culturally diverse choices. Our video choices were varied as well including character building themes, classics and just for fun titles. We pre-screened commercial movies before taking the children. We made sure the books we selected were content rich and age appropriate. We were careful about all media choices. Our goal was to plant seeds that would bloom into a well rounded background that didn't rely on TV, DVDs or video games as a base of entertainment or education for the children.

     Some of those seeds did indeed bloom and produce fruit. All three children love a variety of music, they enjoy playing instruments and singing. They have shared their music with others, performing as a community service. Their interests in literature, music and films are all well rounded. All three have been involved in drama and theater in some way. We never found a way to filter out all the "junk" from their media diet. As they got older they started exploring the "popular" TV programs and movies. Not all of these came with an endorsement from me or their parents but we were able to make some compromises that gave them some control which is what teens are looking for. Often I'd watch these shows with them so they we could talk about issues or what could be considered objectionable or acceptable.

     Like many of you, I feel television has taken advantage of children's programming. If you've watched Cartoon Network or even the Disney Channel you know what I mean. Not only the shows content or attitude are only part of the problem. The hard hitting commercials aimed at kids are unrelenting. Sometimes it's hard to tell the program from the commercial. All age brackets are covered - earlier afternoon/evening programing is aimed at younger children, prime time and later for teens. We all talked openly about this type of advertising being honest about what is really going on.

      There are some provisions that we set in place before any media is used. Homework must be completed along with any household or personal responsibilities. For the most part they were not to watch shows unless an adult was around as well - whether or not the adult was watching with them. The "adult present" rule provided a supervised monitor. While we have more than one TV in the house they are all in common rooms so supervision was available.
     The same thing went for video or computer games. There was a time limit and adult needs to be supervising. Some games are engaging have had elements that are positives - problem solving, strategy, role playing, actions / consequences - which can all be learning experiences with adult guidance. I confess I still like the ones where your race against each other and build skills to the next level. I have never enjoyed battle type games and usually didn't play them. Interestingly, those are the ones that they lost interest in over time. I intentionally told them how much I like playing a particular game and why. This encouraged them to play those games over others.

     We set appropriate limits when they were young and as they matured the limits were adjusted accordingly. Part of growing up is exploration of options, but they need to know that adults are there to advise and guide them, and ultimately have a final decision. When they were toddlers they had the choice between a blue cup or a red cup at snack, as teens they had more options but through it all the adults worked as a team to help guide them. Because we live in a media saturated world which is expanding daily, we need to be aware of what messages children being exposed to. These children are now all out on their own as young adults. While media is part of their lives I know it doesn't control their lives. I believe this is due, at least in part, to the thought their parents and I put into guiding them when they were younger.

No comments:

Post a Comment