How children use media has a lot to do with who they are. Although no two kids are exactly alike, children generally go through the same stages of development. Knowing these stages can help you encourage your child to use media in new and creative ways.
What you can do: Try to keep negative stereotypes, rumors and gossip from undermining your child's confidence. Ask him what he finds appealing about favorite TV shows, movies and video games.
What you can do: If your child is using instant messaging to connect with friends, provide examples of how to communicate ideas and opinions while also listening to what others have to say. Your child may know more about Web slang than you do but may need your guidance when it comes to writing clearly and staying safe online.
What you can do: Your child may be trying to balance his ethical standards with being accepted by friends who are making decisions that may seem confusing. Give him guidance by talking about this challenge when it comes up in movies and on TV. Discuss why a character does something and what makes a certain choice right or wrong.
What you can do: Talk to your child about the food that he sees advertised on TV and why it is — or isn't — what your family eats.
What you can do: Talk to your child about what constitutes "looking good" — attention to appearance and a positive outlook. Try to point out when supposedly glamorous TV and movie characters behave in poor ways and listen to what your child defines as "attractive."
What you can do: Avoid TV shows and movies that may unsettle your child, especially right before bedtime. If he becomes scared by something he sees, talk about it and assure him he is safe.
What you can do: TV probably has less of a hold on your child at this age. Now is a good time to encourage other activities, like exploring Web sites and books that build on his interests and encouraging him to write and tell his own stories. When your child turns to TV, encourage him to read through a programming guide before turning on the set.
What you can do: Talk to your child about how cigarettes, alcohol and other drugs are portrayed in movies and on TV. Discuss the differences between fictional glamour and reality. Let your child know which of these activities are acceptable or unacceptable to you.
What you can do: Help your child be a critical viewer of movies, first by deciding whether a movie is worth seeing. Find out why certain movies are appealing by starting a conversation about the actors, story or special effects.
What you can do: Use the Web and TV to help your child pursue his interests. Help him discover that art and music are not just for spectators but for doers — he can be the one conducting an experiment or performing songs.