Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Mighty Media: Thoughts from Michael Rich, M.D.

My kids aren't online a ton, but we've talked about internet safety and will continue to do so. At times the discussion has touched on helping friends -- by not asking for their internet passwords, for instance (this is one case where "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" is right on the money), and never pushing a friend to post a photo or comment that could embarrass him/herself or somebody else. At this point they're probably sick of my reminders that once something is online, you can't control where it goes or who sees it.

Fighting the impulse to phone or text a peer when (s)he should be sleeping is also helpful. I remember a 10-year-old friend of my boys bragging gleefully that he'd awakened his cousin with a 5 a.m. text message. Yikes!

Wanting to learn more about how kids and teens can help each other be media savvy, I asked Michael Rich, M.D., for input through his wonderful "Ask the Mediatrician" feature on the Center on Media and Child Health website. Not only are kids "experts on media," he said, but they often listen to peers (especially slightly older kids) more than their parents. Some tips from Dr. Rich and his colleagues:

~Older siblings can model healthy media use for younger ones: "When an older brother turns on the TV to watch a specific show, and then turns it off when the show is over, he's teaching his little sister that media is used for a specific purpose, rather than something to passively consume."

~YouTube fans can post "behind the scenes" looks at how ads are created to their Facebook profiles to spark conversations with their friends, such as How do they make that burger look so good? or What does it take to make a regular person into a model?

~Kids can nudge each other to tune in to song lyrics: "Have you really listened to the words in this song?"

Go here for Dr. Rich's full response.

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