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It is no surprise that in this digital age, our children are as connected to technology as we are. There are consequences to inhaling media daily, whether it be surfing the internet, watching television, playing video games, or having our headphones glued in. Media has its pros and cons, and it is our individual responsibility to assess its benefits and pitfalls according to our separate lifestyles.

In order to know how to become good digital parents, we have to know the benefits and disadvantages of all media—YouTube, social media, messaging apps, television, music, podcasts, news platforms, etc.—to construct a positive foundation in ourselves, as well as our children. Promoting media awareness is vital in order to implement learned behaviors that can positively impact the physiological and psychological systems of children and teens. This concern is a very important one because what we allow our children to consume and how we influence them will determine who they become as adults and how they contribute to society.

The children are unequivocally our future.

Several studies support the aforementioned statement of media having its good and bad side, so let’s begin to differentiate the sides of this division. 

According to a study by by Wright JC, Huston A and Lawrence on the effects of educational television viewing of lower income preschoolers on academic skills, school readiness and school adjustment one to three years later, there is a relationship between learning and watching YouTube or television shows. For example, studies show that Sesame Street improves the reading and learning skills of toddlers, just as many other television programs or YouTube channels. They concluded that shows that are dedicated to relay educational messages serve as an influential teaching device given the fact that every child has a unique learning style, and not many can stay focused on just reading or listening to someone talk. 

Although, if show-watching goes unguided, the risks of addiction and consuming unfiltered information presents itself. Based on academic journal, Cyberpsychology and Behavior, excessive watching of any show, especially non-educational ones, can contribute to childhood obesity, unfavorable academic performance, negative behaviors, and detrimental consuming habits of media. Ultimately, it boils down to balance. The yin and yang of media viewing habits. According to a research study by Pediatrician Strasburger, one to two hours of daily unregulated show watching has a significant adverse effect on a child’s development.

The technological method by which a child consumes media can be a destructor, because it is still a channel through which advertising and popular culture embeds itself into a child’s life. Marshall McLuhan, professor and author of The Medium is the Message, stated that technology has the power to shape us, especially children who are still developing and molding their voice, habits, and personality.

However, if we keep things in perspective, we can conclude that technology is growing and becoming a part of our life, therefore parents do not have the same amount of influence as what is channeled through technology.

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Dr. Jim Taylor, adjunct faculty at the University of San Francisco, suggests four questions in his  Raising Generation Tech: Preparing Your Children for a Media-fueled World parenting book, to determine the influence of media in your child’s life:

  • How often are your children immersed in technology?
  • What is the quality of content to which they are exposed?
  • To what degree do you provide limits and guidance in your children’s interactions with technology?
  • How much counterbalancing exposure do your children get from positive influences and experiences?

This outline can serve as a rubric to evaluate the influence of media your child is consuming daily, and to determine if their favorite shows are raising them, or you.

Has a YouTuber or show become more powerful in your home?

Let us know how you ensure what your child is consuming through technology in the comments.

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