Ways to Cultivate Media Literacy in Your Young Children in 2024
If your parenting goals for 2024 include learning about media literacy or helping your child learn skills that will help them look at media with a critical eye, then this post is for you! If you haven’t considered the effects media may be having on your child or family life, I encourage you to read on!
So what does media literacy even mean?
Media literacy is the ability to identify different types of media and understand the messages they’re sending. There are many different types of media ranging from traditional media, such as TV and magazines, to viral videos and video games. One of the most problematic types of media in our modern society today is the unregulated bombardment of advertising to children. This is usually strategically hidden in unsuspecting places like their favorite video games and apps on their tablet. The exposure that children get from ads may contribute significantly to poor nutrition, cigarette/alcohol use, earlier onset of sexual intercourse, distorted body self-image, abnormal eating behaviors in young girls, and more.*
As mindful parents, we recognize that media literacy education is important and something worth spending time with our children on. In this digital age, we want to raise our children to view media responsibly, be smart consumers, and learn to think critically. It is true that media, such as advertisements, can have a harmful effect on our children’s psyche, but there is some good news – when we teach our kids how to analyze and decode media messages, it not only reduces harm, but actually has a protective effect.
Here are a few tips, as well as some resources, that can support you in cultivating a great foundation for educating your child on media literacy in your home.
–Keep in mind that these tips are geared toward younger children with the goal of providing a foundational sense of media literacy education that will need to be adjusted as they grow. —
- Ensure your child is watching age-appropriate programming for an appropriate amount of time. This goes for TV shows, games they play, and apps, AND opt to make them ad free. Many caregivers erroneously believe that if a child watches grown up content, it’s “over their heads” and, therefore, has no effect on them. This couldn’t be further from the truth. If young children consistently watch media that’s intended for an older audience, it can desensitize them to violence, among other things.
2. Get in the habit of turning off all adult programming when not actively watching. There have been studies done that show that the harmful effects of background noise and TV programming are evident in kids as young as infants! The most harmful type of media may be the kinds that children aren’t consciously consuming on their own free will. The information is downloaded right into their subconscious minds. This makes it harder for parents to help children deconstruct the media they have been exposed to.
3. It’s never too young to start healthy media literacy practices. If you are able, get in the habit of co-watching movies, TV shows, and videos with your child as much as you can while they are young. This builds connection and trust, opens dialogue, and encourages communication to discuss what they are viewing. Even programs that are supposedly designed “just for kids,” like YouTube Kids, show inappropriate ads and have many other safety concerns despite parental locks.
For more information on how to keep your child safe while on various apps, check out this thorough resource: Protect Young Eyes
4. Teach your child how to deconstruct media. You can do this at a much younger age than you might think. Modeling goes a long way with young kids. Pausing and asking questions out loud about something that you are viewing helps a child learn to do the same. Small little moments of asking questions and thinking critically out loud goes a lot further than trying to lecture or explain something for a long period of time. My 6-year-old recently saw a commercial highlighting the Sleep app on the Apple Watch and it looked like the person got a really good night’s sleep from wearing the watch. My son said: “What?! A watch can’t make you sleep good! That’s silly.” I just smiled with pride realizing that he had viewed that commercial with a critical eye and deconstructed it on his own without any prompting from me! You can learn how to do this with your own kids, and it’s never too late to start!
Want some additional reading and resources?
–For grown-ups to read: “Who’s Raising The Kids” by Susan Linn, and/or “Consuming Kids” by Susan Linn
–To read with your children: “Petra’s Power to See, A Media Literacy Adventure” by Educate Empower Kids
–Read this short article:
–Listen to this podcast episode: “How to Talk to Kids About Media Literacy and Deconstructing Advertising with Dina Alexander – How To Talk To Kids About Anything with Dr. Robyn Silverman Podcast on any podcast platform