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Parent Tips Oct.

Parents: 4 Tips for Monitoring Your Child’s Media 

by Alison Blanchet

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When I was in fifth grade I had a slumber party and rented “Grease” for my friends and me to watch.  My parents had fond memories of the musical numbers but had completely forgotten about the more adult themes in the story.  When my friends and I finally popped the film in the VCR around 3:00 a.m., the references to a monthly guest being “late” and “summer nights” went right over our heads – but when my mom nostalgically flipped the movie back on the next day, she was mortified to realize how many adult themes she had forgotten.  I think she even called the parents of my friends to apologize.

Monitoring the media consumed by children hasn’t gotten any easier.  With thousands of channels and streaming video at their fingertips, access to anything is only a click away.  And even the strictest parental controls can still fail and allow students to see questionable content.

What is a parent to do?

1 .Watch what they watch. 

With many children carrying their own phone (and thus a ‘personalized screen’ in their pocket) this isn’t always easy, but parents can ask their child – or peruse their search history – to see what they enjoy watching on the internet.

More and more children are opting for YouTube channels that feature gamers or internet celebrities, so it’s important to realize that any access to screens (through their own devices or the devices belonging to friends, classmates or teammates) means the potential for media consumption.  Network television is no longer the only option!

Family Honor strongly recommends internet accountability software for families. Check out the Covenant Eyes website at www.covenanteyes.com for more information.

2. Don’t rely on ratings done by the media industry … 

While media is often accompanied by a parental rating that can give parents some insight into content (for example, the TV-Y, TV-G, TV-MA that now flash in the corner) a rating won’t tell the whole story for parents who are concerned about their children observing behavior like same-sex attraction, premarital sex or abortion conveyed as typical or even virtuous.

While the tone of a series can sometimes be determined from viewing one or two episodes, it’s often necessary to do more research to determine just what topics the season will raise and how they will be addressed.

3.  … But Do Check Out Trusted Sites for Parents to Get Reviews

There are a number of sites that parents can go to which provide reviews on books, games, music, movies and television from a traditional Judeo-Christian perspective. Consider checking regularly with one or more of these sites:

www.pluggedin.com

Their website says they are:  “…a Focus on the Family publication designed to shine a light on the world of popular entertainment while giving families the essential tools they need to understand, navigate and impact the culture in which they live.”

http://www.catholicnews.com/movies-listing.cfm

Catholic News Service provides a list of current and recent movies, a classification and ratings system, and an explanation as to what the various classifications mean. They also have Archives section with  reviews for movies released prior to 2011.

http://w2.parentstv.org

According to their website, the mission of the Parents Television Council is:

“To protect children and families from graphic sex, violence, and profanity in the media, because of their proven long-term harmful effects.” Their stated vision is to: “provide a safe and sound entertainment media environment for children and families across America.”

 4.Talk.  And talk again.  And more talking. 

Unless you are un-wired and off the grid, even parents who take the greatest precautions will probably discover that their children have consumed media that presents messages that contradict their values.  When this happens, consider it a teachable moment.

I still remember my mother talking about the ending of “Grease” with me and sharing that real love doesn’t mean completely changing for the person you love (like Sandy did for Danny).  While my mom was clearly not thrilled about what we had seen, she didn’t punish me – she used it as a springboard for conversation about realistic expectations in a relationship.

Ultimately, parents should feel confident to trust their instincts.  If the message of the media being consumed leaves you unsettled, it’s perfectly reasonable to simply turn it off and learn more about the agenda or message of a program before continuing to watch it.

And don’t forget – there’s always books.

Alison Blanchet is a Family Honor Presenter. She lives in Florida.