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: Help your teen achieve independence by learning how to tell her own stories. Rather than just watching shows made by others, encourage her to write, film or draw her stories. If you have a camcorder, put your teen behind the lens, or encourage her to take a class or work independently.
What you can do: Your teen may be swapping (mis)information about health and development with her friends as well as looking at magazines and newspapers. Introduce your teen to resources — online and in print — that are consistent with what you think she should know.
What you can do: Your teen may be balancing what it means to develop ethical standards while also being accepted by friends. Use situations on TV, in the movies and in the news as a springboard to talk about complexities of character.
What you can do: Talk to your teen about what constitutes "looking good" — attention to appearance and a confident outlook. She may be internalizing negative body images and stereotypes from pop culture and need your guidance. Try to point out when supposedly popular TV and movie characters make poor decisions and listen to what your teen defines as "attractive."
What you can do: Use TV, video games and movies to help your teen discuss anger, pointing out when a character resolves a conflict in a non-physical and non-aggressive way. Encourage your teen to express her emotions in constructive ways: make a video, compose a song or create a personal Web site.
What you can do: Use the Web and TV to introduce your teen to different professions. Encourage her to use e-mail to request information from professionals or organizations that she finds intriguing.
What you can do: Help your teen get in the habit of asking questions, rather than conforming to her friends. Encourage her to be curious about the validity of information — whether it comes from a friend or a popular Web site. Talk to your teen about what makes something valid and where bias might come into play.
What you can do: Talk to your teen about gender roles and pop culture messages she's receiving about how "guys" and "girls" act in relationships. Talk to her about what it means to trust another person, pointing out what's superficial about TV and film portrayals of romance.
What you can do: Help your teen learn more about your family's history — perhaps by tracing your genealogy on the Web — in order to ground her exploration of culture and ethnicity. Help her realize that there are multiple points of view and that all stories — be they in the news or on the big screen — are constructed.
What you can do: Encourage your teen to volunteer. Use Web sites and community TV programs to learn more about opportunities that exist in your neighborhood and beyond.