Report Offers Six Ways to Guide Kids’ Media Usage

Parents Overwhelmed by Flood of Information

A new national report has found that parents are so overwhelmed by the flood of information available to their kids through the media – including television, the Internet, radio, video games and cell phones – that they often feel forced to make media choices daily or to respond with an "all-or-nothing" approach that gives children too little or too much access to media.

The American Institutes for Research prepared the report, entitled Navigating the Children’s Media Landscape: A Parent’s and Caregiver’s Guide, for the National PTA and the organization Cable in the Classroom. The report offers ideas and tips to help parents and caregivers choose and use media wisely for their children.

"It’s understandable that the people responsible for raising and educating children – parents, teachers, caregivers – often opt for the simplest possible way through the confusion," Peggy O’Brien, Ph.D., executive director of Cable in the Classroom, said in announcing the new report. "Many of us decide either to turn a blind eye to the potential education benefit of media and demand that ‘screen time’ be off limits altogether, or we give up and make it limitless. There is a smarter and sounder solution."

Choose & Use Media Wisely
The report gives a six-point strategy, detailed below, to help families manage the media onslaught and use technology in a consistent, educational way that is also appropriate to children’s developmental stages:

Identify your current family media practices. How does each person in your family currently use media? Where in the house are televisions, computers and videogames located? Who decides what is viewed on TV or what CDs, DVDs or games to buy?

Consider the unique stages and needs of your children, and select developmentally appropriate media. Ensure that content and messages are appropriate to each child’s ability to process them.

Educate yourself about your children’s media "landscape." Keep current on the proliferation of technology and media to help make better choices for your kids. Look at reviews or parenting tips in parenting magazines or on Websites. Talk to other adults – relatives, teachers and friends – to find out which media they use, how they use this, what they suggest regarding children’s media exposure and why.

Select media for your family with a purpose. Is that TV show age-appropriate? Does the computer match your child’s comprehension and skill level? Does that video game provide information and learning experiences that are meaningful and respectful? Can your child use it for imaginative play?

Encourage active, creative and open-ended use of media. Use technology actively to create picture books, digital photo albums, home movies and Web sites. Create reflective opportunities by asking your children about their experiences with different media.

Teach your children media literacy skills. Media literacy involves the ability to access, understand, evaluate and create messages in a wide range of media. The need for these skills increases as children mature and become more independent. Explore resources that offer information on selecting media and on helping children make wise choices on their own.

Cable in the Classroom, part of the cable telecommunications industry, aims to improve education for children in schools, at home and in their communities. For a copy of Navigating the Children’s Media Landscape: A Parent’s and Caregiver’s Guide, visit Cable in the Classroom . For more information on making wise media choices, visit

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– Kim Watts-Diaz