The average young person in America spends most of his or her free time—more than 10 hours a day—engaged with media. And if that were not daunting enough, the number goes up to 13 hours of media a day for Latino kids. Yet, research shows it takes just 30 minutes of television programming (and the accompanying advertising), one time, to negatively affect how someone feels about him or herself.
Every day, I work with people who are crushed by a lack of confidence and poor body image. While the media is not the only cause of their insecurities, it is one of them. That´s why I teach them to be media savvy and resilient. I encourage you to do the same with your kids at home. Here are five strategies to make your kids more media literate.
1. MAKE THE CASE
People hear all the time that television and magazine images are shot under the best of circumstances—perfect lighting and makeup—and, if it’s a print image, they are manipulated even further. But what does that really look like? Check out the Dove Evolution video on YouTube. Watch it with your children, so they can really understand how far from reality magazine images really are. Also, take the time to learn more about Photoshopped images so you can become more adept at noticing the alterations. This will allow you to see magazine spreads for what they actually are—retouched images and not reality. These tools will help you and your children take a critical look at the media you see, especially print media.
2. WATCH TV & MOVIES TOGETHER
Help your child develop her critical thinking skills by analyzing a show together. What messages is the show sending about beauty, body image, and gender roles? Point out role models on the shows as well as sexism and poor examples.
3. TEACH YOUR CHILD THAT SHE HAS A CHOICE & A VOICE
As you complete steps one and two, it is natural to begin to feel bothered by some of the media you consume. Are there shows you no longer wish to watch or magazines you no longer wish to get? Quit watching and cancel subscriptions! And use your voice to encourage companies to adopt better practices. A 14-year-old girl’s petition got Seventeen magazine to commit to not digitally altering its models’ body shape or faces. That’s the power we have as media consumers.
4. HAVE MEDIA BLACKOUT TIMES
One of the best things you can do is reduce the amount of media consumed by your entire family. Have media blackout periods for everyone—and that includes checking the Internet and Facebook from your phone. This will encourage everyone to pursue other interests.
5. SEEK SMARTER MEDIA
Media in itself isn’t bad, but for the sake of our kids, let’s take the time to find smarter media and consume it in moderation. Ask people you trust what they are watching, reading, or playing. Read media reviews. Make healthier, informed choices that can entertain while also empowering you and your family.