Children and Media: Entertainment or Exploitation?

by Melanie Howard

As a parent, you ensure that your children eat their vegetables, wear their bicycle helmets, and ride in their car seats. You want them to grow up in a safe and healthy environment. But what are you doing to protect your kids from the negative influences of the media? Today’s children are repeatedly exposed to media—primarily television and the Internet.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), the average child watches three hours of television per day. This replaces more meaningful activities such as outdoor play, exercise, and reading. Children who spend too much time in front of a TV are often less imaginative, less able to focus, and less able to plan ahead. They are also more likely to be violent or aggressive, to have academic difficulties, and to be overweight.

The content of television programming is often at odds with the values of Christian families. Many television shows expose children to profanity, cigarettes, alcohol, drugs, violence, and sexuality. Even some “family friendly” programs include sarcasm, back-talk, negative portrayals of parents, and an overemphasis on romance.

Television commercials and Internet advertising are also problematic. Children watch more than 40,000 commercials each year—mostly for toys, cereals, candy, and fast food. Because young children can’t distinguish between programming and commercials, they are likely to accept commercials as fact. Overexposure to advertising can lead to materialism, parent-child conflict, unhealthy eating habits, and positive attitudes towards alcohol and tobacco use.

Of course, the Internet can be a wonderful resource for both kids and adults. It provides an easy way to do research for school projects, to communicate with friends and family, and to play interactive games. But the Internet also exposes children to potential hazards such as pornography and sexual predators.

How can parents protect children from the dangers of the Internet? 
• Learn how to monitor your child’s Internet usage. Use filtering software that prevents your child from visiting inappropriate Web sites. 
• Teach your child not to reveal personal information over the Internet. 
• Keep your family’s computer in a common area—not in a child’s bedroom. 
• Share an email account with younger children. Monitor who is sending them messages.
• Bookmark your child’s favorite sites. This reduces the likelihood of a typo that could lead to the wrong Web site.

How can parents protect children from the dangers of television? 
• Do not let children younger than two years old watch television.
• Limit children older than two to two hours or less a day, and make sure they view quality programming only. 
• Do not allow children to have a television in their bedroom. 
• Monitor the programs your children watch. Seek quality programming that is informational, educational, and nonviolent. 
• Watch television with your child. Discuss together how your family’s values differ from those displayed on TV.

Television and the Internet present dangers that threaten to exploit children. But when families take appropriate safety measures, they can enjoy the information and entertainment these media provide.

Age Level: 
Back to Top