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Media Management 101: What You Can Do
to Combat Media Influences

Limit TV viewing to no more than 2 hours per weekday. We opted for a limit of 90 minutes, and voila, Sarah is reading books again. We cut her more slack on weekends, but fortunately she's usually too involved in other activities to spend endless hours in front of the tube.

Keep the TV out of your child's room. Sarah's fondest wish is to have her own TV, and we are adamantly opposed. Yes, it's unfair that we get to have one in our room, but there's got to be some benefit to being the grown-ups.

Watch the shows your kids like, and listen to their music. Talk to them about the content and the commercials. Help them see the hype. If the shows are inappropriate, put them on the "not now" list -- which I find is a lot easier than saying "never."

Find shows and movies that you can enjoy together, and use them as learning experiences. Recently, my daughter and I happened to catch the '40s film, "The Farmer's Daughter" on TV. I was surprised to see how many lessons it contained on politics and values that were still relevant today.

Read books together. When you read together, choose books a notch beyond your child's reading level to increase vocabulary and reading experience. Besides, it's a great way to share time. I'm surprised and delighted at how my "totally cool" daughter loves the decidedly unhip Nancy Drew mysteries we read together each night.

Monitor your child's Internet habits. Even if you don't want to use a Web filter, look at the sites your kid visits and check in during unsupervised 'Net time. Just knowing mom or dad is glancing at the screen from time to time brings home the message that you're concerned about what's being viewed online.

Read Selling Out America's Children: How America Puts Profits Before Values and What Parents Can Do. Psychologist David Walsh takes a hard look at the power of popular culture in our kids' lives, offering many concrete recommendations to parents hard-pressed to combat these influences. I found one of his strongest suggestions to be especially useful:

Be willing to say "No!" Not easy for a lot of us, but the payoff is worth it.

For more on kids and the media, go to:

Spice, Silicone, and Sex: What's a Parent to Do?!

TV as Babysitter: The Cost

Kids and Media: Our Four Favorite Web Sites

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© 1999, Marc Eisenson & Nancy Castleman
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