Watching What They Watch – 9 Tips for Media-Literate Families

Watching What Our Children Watch

This article by Andrea Palpant Dilley, on children and media, written for the her.meneutics blog of Christianity Today is a MUST READ for all parents with young children in this age of visual media.

I present below just the 9 tips she suggests:

When selecting programming….

1. Disregard labels: Phrases like “educational video” or “kid video” shouldn’t be a green light, necessarily. Pediatricians will tell you that children learn best through tactile experience and interpersonal contact. No matter how many PBS logos you see, videos are a passive medium, not an active one, and an entertainment medium, not an educational one. Videos are a supplement to learning, not a substitute.

More importantly, labels pertain to content (violence or other inappropriate content), not form. Keep in mind that form can be violent for a little developing brain, if the video is excessively fast or frenetic.

2. Watch the cut rate: Pay attention to how fast the video moves. The faster the cut rate—more edits or image changes per minute—the more frenetic the video, and the more frenetic the video, the more difficulty your child will have tracking the story. Generally speaking, the younger the child, the slower the cut rate.

For example, at the risk of criticizing a well-loved icon of Christian entertainment, Veggie Tales videos are often too frenetic for kids under 5. The BBC’s Kipper the Dog is a good example of a slow-tempo alternative, or the vintage Mr. Rogers, which is edited with a painfully slow pace.

3. Listen to the audio: Audio contributes as much—if not more—to the pace of the video as what’s on the screen. Editors often cut to music, so the audio track is a great way to assess the frenetic factor. Listen to the video without looking at it. If the video has a lot of up-tempo music that runs throughout the video, your child has a lot more sensory data to intake and process. Look for what editors call “breathing space,” where the audio periodically quiets down.

4. Consider the internal impact: Even if your child seems to be tracking a fast-paced video, be cognizant of how it impacts her emotional state. A frenetic video with lots of visual edits and up-tempo music can rev her system the same way rock music revs your system. Conversely, a slower video will help calm her system. Keep in mind, too, that TV viewing impacts cognitive development. Some studies indicate that, even in homes that value education, excess TV exposure impairs learning in school.

When your child watches programming…

5. Skip television (unless it’s ad-slim PBS). With DVDs, you avoid advertisements, which are often frenetic, and you control both the viewing and the dialogue that goes along with viewing. (See #7.)

6. Skip introductions, at least for the little ones. Like movie trailers, introductions with opening credits are often cut montage-style, with lots of fast cuts and fast music.

7. Watch with her, especially in early viewings. First, assess the form. Is the video too fast? Is the audio too frenetic? Is my child tracking? Second, assess the content. Talk with her about the emotions she feels and the values and morals she’s viewing. Help narrate what’s going on and how it relates to her life.

For example, my three-year-old loves to watch The Sound of Music. When she watches the scene in which Maria and the Captain bicker over how to raise the kids, she says to me, “They’re not being gentle,” and then we talk about the importance of being gentle with each other.

8. Repeat the video. Repetition is part of learning, both with reading books and “reading” media. The more a child views a video, the more she understands the story and anticipates a character’s actions. If after multiple viewings, she’s still not tracking, that’s an indication the video might be too frenetic or age inappropriate.

9. Equip your child: You can’t control every situation, so help your child self-regulate when she’s at a friend’s house. Use language she can understand. “If the video makes you feel yucky, call mom and I’ll pick you up.” Or, “If the video feels too fast, tell the babysitter.” Equip her with decision-making power. Even if the process takes years, it will pay dividends in the long run.

You may red HERE Andrea’s entire article.

Author: DanutM

Anglican theologian. Former Director for Faith and Development Middle East and Eastern Europe Region of World Vision International

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