Media Literacy Begins Early: 12 Things Parents Can Do
- Start early to develop the media habits appropriate for your family. Critical questioning of media is a skill that can be fostered over time and is best set through your own example.
- Develop planned viewing of specific programs, video games or online networks. Talk about why you think some shows, games or Web sites are better than others.
- Seek out media made for kids your child’s age. Guide your child’s choices to appropriate media by offering your child a choice among several media you already prefer.
- If possible, have a media center area separate from where the regular family functions occur. If not, consider covering the TV or computer when not in use. Develop specific rules for the appropriate uses of handheld devices. Your child should know when to turn them off.
- Differentiate between “make believe” and real life situations with younger children.
- Don’t let kids use media as an excuse for not participating in other activities. Encourage your child to exercise and do a wide range of hands-on activities like crafts, hiking, cooking, family games, etc.
- Help kids use “alone time” for other purposes than just browsing the Internet, playing video games or viewing TV.
- Use sensitive themes seen in media to open up discussion opportunities. These are good times to talk about your own family’s beliefs and values.
- Expose deception in advertising. In particular, discuss ads which emphasize sugary snack foods. Discourage eating in front of the television or at the computer.
- Question media with your child: Who produced it and why? What kind of media is it? How are things represented? The goal is not to get the “correct” answer, but to encourage critical questioning about media when you aren’t around to guide the discussion.
- Produce media with your family. Just as reading and writing is important to traditional literacy, analysis and production is important to media literacy. Use video cameras, still cameras and recording devices at home. Or encourage kids to make posters, songs, jingles and scripts that reflect what they already know and enjoy about media.
- Read to your child.
Adapted from “Media & You: An Elementary Media Literacy Curriculum” by Donna Lloyd-Kolkin and Kathleen Tyner (1991).
Back to Media Savvy feature story