Because media today is inescapable, a fundamental change is needed in our approach to “protecting” our children. No parent—no matter how conscientious and protective they may be—can prevent their child from being affected by the media in some way. There is too much information, and too many ways to access it. This may seem depressing, until we change our view of what it means to “protect” our kids.
Until now, protecting our kids has meant shielding them from media content—using Internet filters, blocking certain TV shows, checking their search history, and the like. These things are not bad. In fact, for younger kids I think they are good and necessary. But as children grow, protecting them in this way may be about as effective as trying to stop Niagara Falls.
So, what am I suggesting we do as parents then? Give up since our kids will be exposed to media messages regardless of what we do? No. No way. Never. What I am proposing is that “protecting” our kids is not enough anymore. No, I’m suggesting we put this conventional wisdom on its head. Instead, we can protect our kids by empowering them. To empower is to protect. Not the other way around. Protecting our kids is good, but empowering our kids is great. Until we come to terms with the fact that we can’t always be there for our kids, shielding their eyes and changing the channel, I think we’re doing our kids a disservice.
Look, our kids are going to see things that make us want to throw up. There is no protection we as parents can provide that will keep that from happening. But, we can empower our kids with the tools to deal with those messages when they come. And empowering them starts with talking to them about media content. Having tough conversations. Explaining media effects. If I sound like a broken record, it’s because I repeat myself over and over again on purpose. If we really, truly want to empower our kids in this way, though, we need to understand what media effects are in the first place. And that’s the whole point of this blog–to increase the media literacy of parents so that we are equipped to give our children the tools they need. So that we are ourselves empowered, so that we in turn can empower them. If you agree, invite a friend to follow this blog or the accompanying Facebook page so we can together empower this generation of children. How do you empower your kids to deal with media?