The Media: Top 5 Conversations to Have With Your Kids in 2011


MTV’s controversial new series Skins is receiving a lot of attention for portraying rampant teen drug use and sexual behavior without any inclusion of consequences. It has set the stage perfectly for this week’s post on the top conversations to have with your kids in 2011, which is the media, where kids will be exposed to three of the five topics already addressed in this series: drugs and alcohol, body image, and bullying.

Tips for Talking With Your Kids about What They Read and Watch

The images of teenagers and even tweens today that are being portrayed in movies, on TV and in magazines is enough to make any parent’s heart skip a beat. Whether it’s the reed thin girls on 90210 or the underage drinking on Gossip Girl, the media today does not mirror how kids should – and most often do – act. Here is a guide for how to approach the issue with your child and to take advantage of teachable moments.

  • Be aware: Pay attention to what kind of media – including television, movies, magazines and online activities – your child consumes. Alarmingly, the media has been proven to be a key influencer in children’s and teen’s behavior – a recent study found that teens who watch a lot of television with sexual content are more likely to initiate intercourse in the following year.
  • Start a dialogue: Make it clear to your child what types of media you find acceptable and what may be destructive. Be open and honest as to why you think a particular TV show or movie isn’t a good example for how teenagers should behave in order to lead healthy and successful lives.
  • Read it and watch it together: If you find it a challenge to prevent your child from consuming their media of choice, try to sit down and read or watch together, and then discuss it afterwards. If a TV show or movie portrays teenagers drinking or doing drugs, for example, underscore how in the real world such behaviors have negative consequences. If you and your daughter flip through a fashion magazine together, you could say, “I don’t know anyone who looks like that.” This will give you a chance to start a conversation about whether models represent normal women.
  • De-emphasize TV and the Internet in the household: Make sure that family dinners are not spent in front of the TV, and that homework is a priority of weeknights. Remember that parents lead by example, and try to encourage reading books as a leisure activity or organize family activities based on your children’s interest.

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Tammy Granger is Caron’s Regional Director of Student Assistance Programs for Caron Treatment Centers. As such, she manages Student Assistance Services in the Northeast region in private and public schools as well as colleges and universities.

Caron’s Student Assistance Program currently reaches more than 60,000 students, teachers and parents annually.

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