Recently I put my parent hat on to attend a presentation at my daughter’s school by Dr Glenn Cupit on the topic of “Healthy Media Consumption – Practical Strategies”.  Dr Glenn Cupit, is a Senior Lecturer in Child Development in the School of Education and Research Ethics Advisor at the University of South Australia, and a member of the deLissa Institute of Early Childhood and Family Studies.  He shared with us his research and practical experience.  The Principal of Annesley School, Cherylyn Skewes, summarized Glenn’s message well.

“Glenn’s presentation reinforced the importance of building effective relationships with our children. As our children are digital natives born into a media-saturated world they learn as much from that environment as previous generations learnt from their context. Media is an intrinsic part of our community. We cannot keep our children from it, but we can influence the way our children interact with it. A positive and healthy parent-child relationship will assist in the promotion of healthy media consumption. We need to help children to establish good values to become discerning and responsible consumers of media and we need to model the behaviours we wish our children to have as media users.”

Glenn advocates three helpful strategies for healthy media consumption:

1.  Clarify Your Media Values

As a parent you need to establish your own media related values. Ask yourself what you believe is healthy engagement with media and does your engagement foster wellbeing?

There are potential positives for wellbeing in a media rich environment which should not be ignored and there also are identifiable risks which should not be downplayed.  The central issues relating to healthy media consumption are around values e.g. how to live well, how to relate to people, how to understand your own worth.  We need to interact with media-exposed children by ensuring our explicit (expressed), implicit (enacted) and complicit (permitted) values move them to positive rather than negative outcomes.  It’s important to develop a reasoned explanation for your values that will stand up to challenge by your children.  Try not to be intimidated by the content or because it involves media/technology, you do know more than children about what is important.

2.  Model Behaviours

If you want your children to be responsible consumers you need to ensure that your behaviour is consistent with the values you express.   What you do counts more than what you say and your engagement with the media is no exception.

3.  Keep Communicating

Glenn emphasises that it’s never too early to start a discussion with children about their media experiences. He believes that parents (and teachers) will amplify and cement the value of the great programs, apps and online games that children are accessing if they make time to connect and have a meaningful discussion with their child.  A blend of parental input, monitoring and engagement can lead to a positive media/technology experience for the whole family.

Check out these sites that provide practical information for parents about children and the media.