Get Out(doors)! - Dealing With Media

This month on Legacy Dad we are going to discuss media issues with parenting. The biggest issues are television, computers and computer games, cell phones and social networking sites like facebook, myspace and youtube. I would love to sit here and tell you that this is not an issue in our family but in fact, we struggle with media limits too. We have limited our children to 1.5 hours of media on weekdays and 3 hours on the weekend, which is a constant negotiation topic in our house. We don't yet deal with the social media piece and our son rarely uses his cell phone. In my opinion, the best way to counter excise media usage by our children is simply to offer healthy alternatives. This past weekend, my son and I stayed in a remote mining camp deep in the mountains of the Pacific Northwest. Like our unplugged weekend, this site featured no telephone, TV or media usage. It did, however, include hiking over 20 miles, looking at old mining shafts and equipment, running into a mountain lion, learning there is still snow above 2000 feet in April, purifying water in mountain streams and taking in countless waterfalls and rivers.

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

Identify your current family media practices. How does each person in your family currently use media? Where in the house are televisions, computers and video games located? Who decides what is viewed on TV or what CD's, DVD's 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.

I want to thank all the staff at Opal Creek for their wonderful hospitality and especially Mindy for her outstanding customer service.