Understanding the Impact of
Media on Children and Teens
In a matter of seconds, most children can mimic a movie or TV character, sing an advertising jingle, or give other examples of what they have learned from media. Sadly, these examples may include naming a popular brand of beer, striking a "sexy" pose, or play fighting. Children only have to put a movie into the VCR, open a magazine, click on a Web site, or watch TV to experience all kinds of messages. It really is that easy.
Media offer entertainment, culture, news, sports, and education. They are an important part of our lives and have much to teach. But some of what they teach may not be what we want children to learn.
This brochure gives an overview of some of the messages media send young people that could be negative or harmful to their health. You will learn how you can teach your children to better understand the media messages they see and hear in print, over airwaves, on networks, and on-line.
The power of media messages
Sometimes you can see the impact of media right away, such as when your child watches superheros fighting and then copies their moves during play. But most of the time the impact is not so immediate or obvious. It occurs slowly as children see and hear certain messages over and over, such as the following:
Fighting and other violence used as a way to "handle" conflict Cigarettes and alcohol shown as cool and attractive, not unhealthy and deadly Sexual action with no negative results, such as disease or unintended pregnancy Media messages: good or bad?
Whatever form they take (ads, movies, computer games, music videos), messages can be good or bad for your child. Just as you would limit certain foods in your child's diet that may be unhealthy, you also should limit her media diet of messages. Some examples of these follow.
Use of cigarettes and alcohol
Messages about tobacco and alcohol are everywhere in media. Kids see characters on screen smoking...
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