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Children learn from, and are changed by, the media they use. It begs the question, how many of you have any idea of the number of texts your kids send or how many hours a day they are truly involved, on-line, in some way? Have you really played their video games with them? Would it surprise you to know about a recent study showing that 8-18 year olds use media for 7:38 each day? With multi-tasking, they are exposed to 10:45 of media content each day. “That’s alot o’ screen time, Lucy…”

These facts, and other insightful observations, came to me Thursday night, when I had the honor of attending a speech being given to Denver Pediatricians by Dr. Michael Rich, Director of Center on Media and Child Health (CMCH), at Children’s Hospital Boston. www.cmch.tv. Dr. Rich is a Hollywood writer, turned Pediatrician, who has become an expert on the health effects of social media on adolescents. CMCH studies the environments kids are growing up in and the acquired health risk behaviors as a result of screen time. Michael’s work inspired me years ago, when I was fresh out of graduate school with my Masters in Technology in Education.  The way we met is hysterical, but the way his work has influenced my life as a parent is profound.

How kids take in information and what they do it with it, is not for the faint of heart. Norms are shifting in our culture because kids are not paying rapt attention to what they are doing on-line; they multi-task and information filters in. Kids brains don’t turn off and what they are playing, or barely watching, gets absorbed. Take video games for example; the more time kids are exposed, the higher the correlation to violence. Just look at the huge bullying epidemic in schools today. Virtual violence desensitizes kids and can bring on violent behavior, fears, nightmares and even PSTD.

Entertainment media is the #1 way kids get their information.  As such, it is so important for us, as parents, to understand the media world and to ensure that our children are “Media Literate”. Teen sex urges and curiosity, plus clueless adults, plus no executive function or future thinking capabilities for adolescents, spreads the perfect storm. Information moves fast today and it is important for all of us to understand what it is made of and how to manage it.  One way to do that is talk with your kids about what they are watching on TV (shows and commercials), at the movies and on-line.  5 questions Michael suggests using to engage in Media Literacy at home are:

  1. Who is really the seller and what are they selling?
  2. What techniques are used to attract your attention?
  3. What lifestyles values and points are they presenting?
  4. How might different people interpret the message (other races, cultures, orientations)?
  5. What is omitted from this message?

He also suggested that another way to engage with your kids is to STACK the deck you are using to understand what’s going on:

Share media you love with your kids

Think about what the media is teaching, not just the content but in the relations it is making

Advise on and discuss what they learn

Control content and time

Know and teach media mastery

So much time spent glued to tvs, computers and phones, puts us all in jeopardy of  losing our ability to let our minds wander and create new ideas. Studies show that kids (and adults)  spend more time inside and less time playing outside. And yet it is so necessary to watch the clouds pass by, the ants build a house or bang around in nature for the afternoon. Down brain leads to innovation and inspiration. Bring back boredom. Bring up awareness.

Check out the CMCH Website at www.cmch.tv. It’s full of amazing tips and advice for navigating this new world. You can also join CMCH on Facebook and “Ask The Mediatirician” at www.askthemediatrician.org – Michael is the Pediatrician behind the screen and will answer any questions or concerns you have (i.e., “My kid used to be so social and now is withdrawn and listens to his iPod all day”).

Lucky for us,  we have access to helpful information. If you have a question, it could take weeks to get into see your kid’s Pediatrician — and I saw some of Denver’s finest at the lecture. Dr. Rich is where they are getting their advice – and it’s where you can get yours,  too.

How do you MIndFULLY navigate media with your kids? Let us know!

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