FAMILY: Modeling the Medium: A Parent's Role


This article originally appeared in Issue# 35

The most significant effect of media is our tendency to test our own experience and perception of life by what we hear and see on the radio and movie or television screen, And today's new media have compounded the problem by making those effects repeatable and recyclable.

Television's effects are particularly important in this process, since in most homes it is all-pervasive and almost ever-present. We watch TV to find out what we expect of others, answer questions and delineate horizons. Children, especially, need help with TV viewing. The, need parental help to interpret and evaluate what they see and hear.

The family is not helpless before this "one eyed" monster and it's modern videocassette spin-offs. We can be with our children while they watch, give guidance and help them choose wisely. As we discuss what we are viewing, we note ideas and images, answer their questions and help them develop credentials for choosing the best and valuing themselves and their energy.

Parents accustomed to control of their own use of media provide wonderful models for their children. Families who set up viewing guidelines, discuss and select movies to see, and schedule time for everyone on the family computer, provide positive images to the question "who am I?": I plan, I choose, I'm in charge of myself. We are not at media's mercy but are ourselves the actors in media society.

On one band we resonate with Norman Mailer's description of TV as a "small and modest malignancy." However, we don't want to deprive ourselves or our children of the learning, fun, relaxation and increased understanding of ourselves and our world. The medicine for the "modest malignancy" is parental involvement and guidance in the best use of media while maintaining individual priorities.

"Although the mass media are powerful influences on young children, parents have even greater power."
— Judith Myers-Walls

Author Bio: 

Margaret Foth wrote Your Time, a radio program for families sponsored by Mennonite Media Ministries, Harrisonburg, Virginia. She is the mother of four children. Since concluding the Your Time program, Margaret has worked as a mediator and trainer in conflict resolution skills and practice.