Media Savvy Tips — For Parents
1. Use news to help build intellectually healthy kids. Children need to create a healthy news diet while they are young, so it sticks with them as they grow. A healthy news diet improves many of the skills children are learning at school, including reading, writing and vocabulary. But that’s not all: Children who are exposed to a variety of news learn to use deductive reasoning and critical thinking skills, which is why news can be a valuable learning tool, if used correctly.
2. Pay attention to the news in your house. News has the power to shape your opinions and color your viewpoints, so it makes sense you’d want to set news guidelines for your children. Make a conscious effort to pay attention to the news that comes into your house – television, newspapers, internet, radio – during the course of a week. If you have a habit of leaving television or radio news on as background noise, guess what? Your kids are absorbing it.
3. Set news guidelines. News guidelines shouldn’t be so much about limiting a child’s access to news. Instead, design guidelines that incorporate a variety of news into your child’s daily schedule: Don’t get all your TV news from one channel, and don’t bring only one newspaper into the house. (These days, there are plenty of free newspapers on the stands, so try bringing a different one home each week.) Just as a variety of food is needed to create a nutritious die, a variety in news is necessary to create a healthy news habit. Do create a news schedule that incorporates more news reading than news watching: Not only is news reading active (as opposed to the passivity of watching news), newspapers give more details in stories than can be found in television news. Therefore, to really understand an issue, newspapers are vital reading.
4. Talk about the news with your kids. News can often be filled with sad or scary news and images, and children need help processing these kinds of stories. If they see a hurt child in the news, they may wonder if something similar can happen to them – but they won’t necessarily verbalize it. It’s important for parents and adults to discuss news events not only for building knowledge and understanding, but also to reassure and inspire children.
5. Set an example. Children learn by example, and what happens in their house while growing up becomes the “norm.” Be open to changing and improving your news habits, too. Share the activity of reading and watching the news with your children, and discuss the news. Maybe your child will go through a stage when talking to you becomes difficult. If you start using news as a discussion point now, you can always discuss news, even when other topics seem off the table.