Talking to kids about violence in the media they consume – television, movies, video games, music and the Internet – can help them put media violence into perspective and perhaps diffuse some of its power.
The intense media coverage that accompanies traumatic events, such as war, acts of terrorism and natural disasters, can be very disturbing for children and teens. Certain young people are particularly vulnerable and some can be seriously distressed simply by watching TV replays of such events.
Parents, educators, health practitioners and others who work with kids can help to lessen anxieties arising from the coverage of catastrophic events.
Screen-Free Week is an annual event that traditionally takes place in April. Each year people from around the world make a conscious decision to turn off screens of all kinds for the week.
There are five key ideas that help kids think critically about media. You can start to make your kids aware of these concepts almost as soon as they start asking you questions!
Regulation of television content in Canada is primarily a voluntary system. Broadcasters, cable systems and specialty channels follow voluntary codes of conduct that address issues such as violence, gender representation, ethics, and advertising to children.
Most young children enjoy pretend play and love to imitate action heroes. But many teachers, parents and child care workers say the influence of children’s superhero TV shows or movies, can result in havoc when little fans get together.
Whether it’s Darth Vader, the Daleks in Doctor Who or the winged monkeys in The Wizard of Oz, most of us remember seeing something on screen that we could only watch from behind a couch or under one of our parents’ coats: in fact, 90 per cent of adults report an enduring memory of having been traumatized as a child by something they saw on television or in a movie. What we may not remember, however, is how serious and persistent the effects of these frightening moments and images can be. As we guide our children through their media experiences, it’s important to realize that what they see can lead to problems like vivid nightmares, fear of the dark, having trouble sleeping and refusing to sleep alone.
TV can send powerful messages to children, so it’s important to teach them to think critically about what they see on TV.
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.
Television watching should be a fun and relaxing activity for kids and adults alike—but too often it’s a source of family conflict.
If you’re concerned about television, banning it isn’t a practical solution. Instead, you need to learn to co-exist with television by managing how much your kids watch, and what.