Movies, music & tv: can parents monitor their children’s entertainment?
Before a child even steps foot into grade school, chances are he or she has been exposed to images from films, video games, cartoons, the Internet and television that may not be appropriate for the development of young minds. Turning on the radio isn’t a safe bet either. Song lyrics that contain adult content, such as “magic stick” or “milkshake,” are masqueraded to seem innocent but are actually the complete opposite.
Protecting a youngster from the world’s negative influences is part of parents’ responsibility. But can they really monitor the entertainment that their child sees and hears?
According to Dr. Adolph Brown III, chairperson and associate professor of the psychology department at Hampton University, a parent can indeed monitor his child’s entertainment by using parental advisement.
“Parental advisement simply provides the child with positive and prosocial directives referencing the child’s entertainment preferences. Parents do this by setting clear and consistent boundaries and limits on the child’s entertainment behavior.”
Founder of the Child & Family Wellness Centers in Virginia and Ghana West Africa, Dr. Brown insists that even though today’s youth are growing up in a fast-paced world, parents should still strive to guide their children in a positive direction.
“As it pertains to children and entertainment, today’s parents must realize that we are in a technological multimedia age, but technology does not have to surpass our humanity,” says Dr. Brown. “We can’t hide our children from life, but we can create teachable moments when possible.”
A recent study conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation, an independent health care philanthropic organization, shows youth are devoting 6 hours and 21 minutes a day to recreational media use. That’s more than 44 hours a week! The study, Generation M: Media in the Lives of 8-18 Year-olds, also shows that a surprising 53% of its more than 2,000 participants say their families have no rules about TV watching.
Experts say facts like this are alarming and need to change. Moms and dads across the nation need to step up and take decisive action if they want to influence their child’s use of entertainment media and the impact it has on their lives, says Evelyn K. Moore, president of the National Black Child Development Institute in Washington, D.C.
“By failing to take action parents give up their parental rights and responsibilities to others who do not necessarily have their children’s best interest at heart,” states Moore. “Because our children are bombarded extensively with a variety of media images, many of which portray African-American people in very negative ways, it is important to talk with our children about these images and language as soon as children can talk with you about what they are seeing and hearing.
“We must not underestimate our children’s intelligence and their capacity to understand …,” she explains. “Even a 3-year-old can tell you when he hears a ‘bad’ word.”
Ronald Kwesi Harris, administration program director of the Prevention Department at the Bobby E. Wright Comprehensive Behavioral Health Center in Chicago, is a parent doing his part in taking action against negative media influences.
“The line between an adult’s world and a child’s world has become virtually nonexistent,” says the father of four. “I generally make it a habit to sit and watch many programs with [my children], particularly music videos, so that I can engage them in a discussion focusing around images, content and theme to discern fact from fiction.
“I believe it’s vital that all adults take time to engage youth in discussion of what’s being portrayed as well as what’s being projected at them.”
Like Harris, Cincinnati management analyst Nicole Lee is a parent who tries to keep her children protected from the media’s negative influences. As a mother of 7-year-old twins and a 15-year-old teenager, she believes she can monitor their entertainment, but only to an extent.
“My children don’t watch prime-time television, and in my presence there are certain songs and movies that will not be played,” explains Lee. “My teenager does disagree with me. In her mind it’s ‘just music’ or ‘just a movie.’ I just hope and pray that my voice is louder than the songs, movies and friends.”
Now more than ever parents have the power to directly influence what their child sees and hears. The V-chip, a feature in newer TV sets, is used to block programming based on its rating. And for moms and dads with Web surfers, there’s software applications with “parental control” to keep your child from entering inappropriate sites. These days video games and music CDs even carry labels with parental advisories.
Despite all the new warnings, there’s still no guarantee that you can keep your child totally protected.
“I don’t think it’s realistic to say that you can’t watch any of this or listen to any of that,” says Lance Williams, Ph.D., assistant director of the Jacob H. Carruthers Center for Inner City Studies at Northeastern Illinois University in Chicago. “Parents can use what they see in the media and cultivate what’s being called ‘critical consciousness.'”
He adds, “This means listening to the music, playing the games, and watching the movies and programs. Help them differentiate between what’s negative, why it’s negative and what’s positive and why it’s positive as opposed to just listening and watching passively.”
Along with establishing a comfortable dialogue with your child, Williams advises parents to fight the media itself for their personal value system.
“At certain points we have to become active as parents and confront certain companies and the media in general to be more responsible. They need to be more sensitive of the cultures of folks and the value systems of people and what’s appropriate for young people in our society.”
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