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Help Kids Choose What to Watch

Look Smart: Help Kids Choose What to Watch Kids consume an extraordinary amount of media in an average day. . . .

Look Smart: Help Kids Choose What to Watch

Kids consume an extraordinary amount of media in an average day. According to Generation M: Media in the Lives of 8–18 Year-olds (PDF), young kids (ages 8 to 10) watch more than four hours of TV a day (when including DVDs and videos with regular television programming). Given that kids consume so much media, it’s essential that they become savvy consumers and learn healthy media habits early.

Children who become critical watchers are able to resist the negative influences of media more easily and to glean more, useful information as well. Media-literate children ask and answer the following five questions:

  • What is the purpose of the message?
  • Whose interests are served?
  • What goals are promoted?
  • What values are involved?
  • How does the content of these messages compare with what I know is right?

When children apply these questions to what they see and hear, they will be less likely to be harmfully influenced and better able to think for themselves.

Teaching Kids Media Literacy

Although younger children may not be able to use and grasp all the tenets of media literacy, they can learn core principles that will help them develop media literacy later. Children at this age should be encouraged to dissect what they watch and compare it to what they know about life.

At around grade three, children can start to recognize various types of media that they encounter and differentiate them. They can also recognize and note violence in programming and the shown consequences. Children should be encouraged to note the differences between the results of violence on television and movies and what would happen in real life. Children can compare how they feel about violence in real life with the feelings they have when they witness it on TV.

Children should also be encouraged to be critical of advertising. By grade three, children can identify what an advertisement is offering and how the advertisement makes the product look attractive. Children can also be encouraged to identify what the advertisement suggests about the product (e.g., that it will make a buyer cool). Children should be encouraged to see advertisements as sales devices aimed at convincing them to take some action. By recognizing what the advertisement suggests and how it works, they can better learn to resist ads that may be harmful, such as those for alcohol and cigarettes.


NCPC offers a variety of resources for caretakers to help educate children about media literacy. McGruff offers advice to children about media literacy on NCPC also offers several projects that parents can do with children or community groups to teach media literacy. They include

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