Don’t Let the Media Control the Stage for Teaching Your Children

We are entering an era in which our children may spend more time with the fictional or real people on the TV or tablet than they do with us.

“In 1970, children began watching TV regularly at about 4 years of age, whereas today, children begin interacting with digital media as young as 4 months of age.” By the time children are approaching adolescence, they are viewing various kinds of digital media around 8-10 hours a day on average, often using two or three electronic media devices at once (Radesky, J.).

It is very unlikely that the high amount of media use will go away. It is a fundamental way of interacting and finding entertainment for most children and teens in our society. Children need parents to teach them how to use the media as a tool to achieve positive goals, interactions, and learning.

One way to teach this is making sure to hold frequent discussions with children about what you and they are watching. This requires that sometimes you play the games your child is playing and watch what they are watching so you can pay attention to what they are an audience to and how it influences them afterwards.

When you see things on the screen that are not in harmony with your family’s values, talk to your child about it and explain why. Talk about possible consequences of the negative choices that some characters make, and the positive consequences of good character traits. Help young children see the difference between fantasy and reality.

Studies show that parents play an important role in their children’s social learning, but if a parent’s views are not discussed explicitly with children, the medium may teach and influence by default” (Ford-Jones & Nieman, 2003).

Embrace every chance you can to make your child’s media use an interactive activity with you and other family members participating, even with small, hand-held devices.

Never feel pressure from someone else or popular online opinion to refrain from blocking or removing a show/movie/game that you feel is detrimental to your child. Follow your intuition and personal awareness of your children.

Pay attention to what kind of “role models” your children are spending hours with on the screen. According to Common Sense Media, “Negative role models — especially ones who don’t suffer consequences for their actions — can encourage anti-social behavior, stereotypes, and even cruelty. Help your kids choose positive media role models who embody the values you want to pass down.”

Teach your children to be critical thinkers about what they watch. advises that older children should make some of their own decisions about what movies to see, but that parents should discuss with their children about how movies portray different values. Encourage teenagers to think for themselves about what values they want to maintain and what to filter out.

Consider having a family movie night every week, or whenever works for your family. You might let family members take turns picking movies that are appropriate. Choose movies for your family that present new educational, cultural, or historical exposure to your children. After the movie take time to talk as a family about what you thought and felt about the movie. Some good questions to ask could be:

  • How do you think this character felt after ____ happened?
  • What do you think will happen next to this character?
  • Was there anything that confused you or surprised you about the story?
  • What do you like best about this character? is a website that provides resources for how parents can apply enriching learning activities and conversations to various movies.

For more information:

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Ford- Jones, A. & Nieman, P. (2003). Impact of media use on children and youth. Paediatrics & Child Health8(5), 301–306. Retrieved from:

Knorr, C. (Oct 4, 2015). Why media role models matter. Parenting, Media, and Everything in Between. Retrieved from:

Radesky, J. (May 2017). Kids and digital media. Retrieved from:

National PTA. Watching movies with your children. Retrieved from:, (2009). Index to talking and playing with movies for children ages 3-8. Retrieved from:

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