Dealing with Media Pressure -- Helping Your Child Become a Responsible Citizen

Without doubt, media messages influence the values that make up our character. The media—TV, radio, newspapers, movies, songs, video games, advertising—use powerful techniques to get our attention and to get their messages across in the most effective way. Taking charge of our use of the media requires learning to say "no" to media images and messages. It takes practice for children to learn to do this.

Childlike drawing of a mother and a young girl looking at a magazine that has a picture of a model in it.

To help your child deal with media pressures, you should:

  • Talk with your child about media pressures. Explain that the media can use subtle or clever messages about who she should be, how she should look, how she should act, what should be the focus of her life, what she should do with her time, what kind of people she should value, what she should think of adults, and so on.

  • Help your child identify the different kinds of pressure he faces everyday from TV, magazines, billboards, music, movies, videos games, and more.

  • Discuss the consequences of accepting or not accepting media messages (e.g., being a bone-thin female, being a muscular male, buying designer clothes).

  • Teach your child the two-step refusal process:
    1. Check out the message and apply the "self-esteem rule": Does it make you feel bad about yourself? Do you see people treating each other the way you would want to be treated?
    2. If the answer is yes, act quickly to avoid being influenced by doing one of the following:
      • Change the channel or station, turn the page, stop playing the game.
      • Turn off the TV, song, game, or radio, or throw away the magazine or newspaper or leave the place where the message is being presented.
      • Talk back to the message with a positive counter-message.
      • Make a joke about the message.

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Last Modified: 10/08/2003