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While parents don't have total control over advertising, media or peers, they can help control the influence they have on their child. Parents need to set limits and be actively involved with the TV shows, computer games, magazines, and other media that children use. But this is only one step in helping media play a positive role in children's lives.

They can limit access to the computer and television and can oversee what types of programming their children are watching. Lamia says she wouldn't let a 12-year-old subscribe to fashion magazines meant for older women, such as Cosmopolitan or Glamour.

"You're not being an overly cautious parent if you're limiting their exposure to certain things," Lamia says. "You're being protective. It's the same as limiting sugar. Limiting what you put in their heads is no different than limiting what you put in their stomachs."

Because media surrounds us and cannot always be avoided, one way to filter their messages is to develop the skills to question, analyze, and evaluate them. This is called media literacy or media education.

Ultimately, the best thing a parent can do is to teach children to have confidence in their own opinions, and that they don't have to succumb to peer pressure.

"In the end, if you do these things, you teach your child to be a leader rather than a follower," Lamia says. "That's what leadership is about—thinking for yourself."

See tips for making better use of the media, next page.

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