By Dr. Robyn Silverman for KnowMore.tv
Buy this! Lose weight! Build big muscles! The media tells our children to look its way 24/7. If you're anything like me, you don't want to take a back seat while advertisers tell our children what to buy, how to feel and how to act.
So, how can we help our children become more media literate in a world that delivers their messages in surround sound?
1. Reveal the tricks
From the colors and fonts they use to the photos they pair with each item, take out a big chain toy catalog and discuss how merchandisers make boys and girls want certain toys. What tricks do they see? Then watch some videos on food styling together. How do advertisers make their food look irresistible even when it's largely inedible on TV? And how about those fashion magazines -- what tricks are used to make us feel bad and want to buy, buy, buy? Once the tricks are revealed, children will be more savvy consumers.
2. Discuss hidden messages
Photos, movies and TV send messages to everyone who watches and reads. Talk about the hidden message that we receive when we see specific body types, races or genders on TV over and over again. And what about the hidden messages girls and boys receive when they see objectified, sexualized or perfected people in magazines? We don't want our children to be passive recipients. We want them to be in charge of the way they understand media.
3. Provide alternatives
While big corporations have the power and money to get their products in front of your children more readily, there are remarkable grass roots companies that provide alternative products and media that widen the concept of beauty, gender and success. Whether it's clothing, toys, dolls, books or magazines, the mission of these companies are parent-friendly an child-centered. (Note products like Pigtail Pals, New Moon Magazine, Lottie Dolls)
Everyone needs to become media literate -- boys, girls and parents, too! The more we understand, the more we can teach and help our children debunk the myths before they impact their behavior.