5 Ways to Combat Harmful Media Influence
If I have a soapbox, this is it. I write often and prolifically about media influence on our daughters (see for example, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/mary-pritchard/body-image_b_1668540.html). But, for your sake, I will try to keep it short.
Did you know that the average child sees 20,000 30-second TV commercials each year? Or that more than half of preteen girls in the U.S. think they are overweight? In fact, a recent study released by the American Psychological Association reported that, “the proliferation of sexualized images of girls and young women in advertising, merchandising, and media is harmful to girls’ self-image and healthy development” (http://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/2007/02/sexualization.aspx). Blame the media. Blame Barbie. It doesn’t matter because, “Houston, we have a problem.”
What can you do as a parent to help stop harmful media influence?
1) Institute a media ban – one of my good friends does this with her daughters. No TV on weekdays; no fashion magazines in the house; family TV/Netflix time on weekends with parent-approved shows/movies. What do they do instead of watching TV? Game night. Talking to one another. Playing together. Taking family walks. Going to the local pool for a swim. Cooking meals together. Doing homework. Here are some other ideas about limiting your daughter’s exposure to media influence: http://blog.nielsen.com/nielsenwire/consumer/a-pocket-guide-to-social-media-and-kids/
2) Be a good role model – As a friend of mine once put it, “So telling my daughter that weight doesn’t matter while she sees me berating myself as I step on the scale every morning probably isn’t good parenting, right?” Bingo. If you are not okay with who you are, how can you expect your daughter to be okay with who she is? For more on this, go here: http://childpsychmom.com/protecting-your-daughters-self-esteem/
3) Do your homework – figure out what she’s watching on TV and which magazines she’s reading and try to understand the appeal. Why is she drawn to this type of media? Talk to her about it. Ask her what she likes or doesn’t like about these particular shows or images. Next, explain your perspective. Get her to understand your concerns. Maybe you can come to some sort of media compromise. Go here for more advice: http://kidsrisk.org/mediaguide.html
4) Educate yourself and your daughter – Let her know that the images she sees in magazines aren’t real. If you’ve never watched the Dove Campaign’s segment on the making of a cover photo, now is the time for both of you to see it (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iYhCn0jf46U).
5) Teach your daughter how to think critically about what she sees and hears (http://parentingteens.about.com/od/familylife/ht/media_literacy.htm) – here are some great media literacy exercises you can do together: http://classroom.kidshealth.org/9to12/personal/growing/media_literacy_health_handout1.pdf, http://classroom.kidshealth.org/9to12/personal/growing/media_literacy_health_handout2.pdf
Stayed tuned for next week’s topic: How to Stay Involved in Your Community: The Importance of Volunteering