“Do you know what your children are watching?”
Posted by: Sue Atkins
I love Twitter as it is such a wonderful place to share expertise and Lori Lite and I have become “Twitter” friends as I really love the work she does helping children, teens and adults decrease stress, anxiety and anger.
I have invited Lori from Stress Free Kids to be a guest blogger today and she has written a thought provoking blog about the influence of the media on our children.
“Glee, which is watched largely by tweens and teens, featured underage drinking of alcohol at both an unsupervised party and school. The supposed alcohol awareness intention was cloaked with positive drinking messages ranging from teachers using alcohol for stress relief to the Glee Club kids being rewarded by the principal with a coupon for free ice cream.
Not to be outdone by other shows that over sexualise our youth, the producers were sure to include footage of students doing a body shot. (A body shot is a shot of alcohol that is consumed from a person’s body, usually from erogenous zones such as the navel or the breasts.)
I watched this show with my 14 year old and was prepared to discuss the real consequences of underage drinking like suspension and arrest, but was surprised when I realized I also had to explain how inappropriate body shots were. Many of us do not have the luxury of watching Internet, television, and movies with our children and adolescents. So I ask you, “Do you know what your children are watching?”
The following tips are real life and parenting tips that have been tried and tested with my own family. Don’t send me letters about the use of parental controls and other standard tips. These tips are what I call ‘in the trenches’ parenting tips.
- Close your eyes, turn away, and alert an adult. Teach children what to do if they encounter inappropriate images on the Internet. The CACRC found that 66% of children exposed to online pornography are due to unwanted exposure. Pop-ups, spam email, clicking unintended search results or misspelled words are real threats in today’s technology driven world. Children are empowered when they know how to react to images that are frightening, unhealthy or inappropriate. Children can close their eyes immediately, turn away from the computer, and alert an adult. This is my stop, drop and roll of technology safety.
- Inappropriate and appropriate, healthy and unhealthy are words to know and use. The sooner your children understand these words, the easier it will be for you to discuss movies, TV, internet and issues of sex, violence, and relationships. Fighting the statistics requires diligent parenting and honest conversations. Kids can be taught what is inappropriate or not. Naked or partially nude photos are inappropriate. Know that innocent sleepovers are prime time for photo taking. (It usually starts as a joke and goes viral from there.) Talk about this with your children as soon as they have a cell phone. Know that the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy reports 22% of girls ages 13-19 have sent or posted nude or semi-nude pictures of themselves online.
- Rating systems are not parenting systems. Be aware of what your children are watching and seeing online, on television, and in the movie theaters. Parents may not want their kids to see a PG -13 movie like Easy A, which contains a scene that demonstrates pornographic style sex by minors. Stars like Ashton Kutcher and Katherine Heigle in the movie Killers, reference porn at least 6 times. While the mention of porn may not be immediately harmful, be aware that because your tween/teen heard this mentioned so nonchalantly their internal warning flag many not go up when a friend suggests they look at some porn. A study at the University of New Hampshire’s Crimes Against Children Research (CACRC) 42% of 10-17 year olds reported they had been exposed to online pornography.
- Create a code with your child, tween, or teen. Kids are often pressured by their peers to watch a movie or TV show they are uncomfortable with. It is difficult for them to get out of the situation without committing social suicide. Create a text code or verbal phrase tweens and teens can use to cue you in that they want you to call them and insist they come home. This allows them to let you know they need to come home, and save face with their friends at the same time. While we all hope our children can stand up for themselves it is wise to have a backup plan.
The American Pediatric Association says excessive TV viewing can contribute to poor grades, sleep problems, behavior problems, obesity, and risky behavior. Bombarding our youth with confusing messages on how to behave and what the social norm is causes stress and anxiety. A RAND Corporation study shows that teens are 2 times as likely to have sex or engage in sexual acts if they see similar sexual behavior in the media.
The average child will watch 8,000 murders on TV before finishing elementary school. The media rewards and glamorizes bad behavior, inappropriate actions, and unhealthy choices. Parenting awareness and involvement is paramount to counteract traumatizing and damaging media messages.
Children need a strong internal moral compass to navigate today’s media driven world.
So I ask you with the utmost sincerity, “Do you know what your children are watching?”
Stress Free Kids founder Lori Lite has created a line of books and CDs designed to help children, teens, and adults decrease stress, anxiety, and anger. Ms. Lite’s books, CDs, and lesson plans are considered a resource for parents, psychologists, therapists, child life specialists, teachers, and yoga instructors. Lori is a certified children’s meditation facilitator and Sears’ Manage My Life parenting expert. For more information visit Stress Free Kids and for daily advice follow Lori on Twitter and Facebook.
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About the author
Sue Atkins is a Parenting Expert who offers practical guidance for bringing up happy, confident, well behaved children. She is also the author of “Raising Happy Children for Dummies” one in the famous black and yellow series published worldwide and the highly acclaimed Parenting Made Easy CDs. She regularly appears on BBC Breakfast and The Jeremy Vine Show on BBC Radio 2 and her parenting articles are published all over the world.
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