As a family, we’re watching a lot less advertising these days – at least, I thought we were. That’s because most of our family watching is on Netflix, which has no commercials, and the few shows we watch on regular TV are recorded in advance and ads are skipped over. I can easily go months without being aware of what new movies are coming up, which new developments have occurred in the world of toothpaste, and what new packaging strides Coke and Pepsi have made.

Sometimes I wonder if watching TV is going the way of the dodo. Remember when we were kids, and there was concern about how watching TV was going to turn all of us into mindless zombies?

Kids today are using screens more, earlier, and on a wider variety of devices than ever before, and more and more parents are seeking help in taking control of their children’s screen time.

Four Tips for Managing Your Kids’ Screen Time

Minimize screen use, especially for the youngest children:

Talk Back! How to Take Action on Media Issues gives you the tools to talk back to media companies.

From the tablet to the TV screen, media are a huge influence on how we see ourselves and our world. Nowhere, perhaps, is that more true than when it comes to gender: media provide many of our ideas of what “male” and “female” are, and many of our models of how to behave, what to avoid doing, and whom to emulate in order to play the role we’ve been assigned. 

Originally published on CBC Parents.

Editor’s note: There is so much conflicting information about screen time, and a lot of it serves to make us feel guilty, worried or both. We asked the Director of Education at Media Smarts (Canada’s Centre for Digital and Media Literacy), Matthew Johnson, to give us the straight goods on the latest info. What is the big deal with screen time? Here’s his response.

Talking to Kids About Hate in Media - Tip Sheet

Along with images of natural disasters and violence, one all-too-common news item that can be distressing to kids is reports of hate crimes. Seeing or hearing about hate-motivated assaults and vandalism of homes, cemeteries and places of worship in media, can lead to fear and anxiety in young people, especially if they belong to a vulnerable group. In many cases, the effect will be worse because news isn’t the only place Canadian kids see hate and racism: almost half see hateful content online at least once a month, and one in six sees it every day.

In ancient times the Olympics were a time when all nations – all Greek nations, anyway – would put away their differences and compete in almost every human activity, from poetry to the ferocious no-rules wrestling event called pankration. Being the very best that humans could be was seen as the best way to honour the gods of Olympus. Though we’ve dropped the poetry and the blood sports, people watching the swimming or volleyball events might wonder if we’re on the way to bringing back the ancient tradition of competing in the nude. Revealing outfits – like those designed by Lululemon for the Canadian beach volleyball team – may be practical for those events, but they also shine a light on how dressing for sports can make us feel about ourselves. After all, it’s hard to feel good about your own body when you’ve just spent an hour watching the most perfect physiques in the world nearly naked.

If you haven’t seen the story of the Hot Dog Princess that has been making the rounds of the Internet, I suggest you read this Buzzfeed article. To summarize: it was “Princess Week” at five-year-old Ainsley’s dance class and she decided to wear a hot dog costume. As a parent, this is the kind of youthful impertinence I can get behind. After all, THIS was a princess who really knew who she was, a princess that was not like other princesses, a #hotdogprincess.

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