Stories about: children and media

How are your children reacting to news of Batman movie shooting and Penn State?

Image: Denver Post

As details of tragic events in Aurora, Colorado become more public, news coverage of the shooting is likely to intensify this week. And with today’s announcements on the sanctions to be placed on Penn State’s embattled football program, we can expect a resurgence of news coverage surrounding the school’s child sexual abuse scandal.

Both are terribly disturbing stories, that will be almost impossible to ignore so there’s a chance your children will be drawn to the media blitz surrounding these events. As a parent, how will you talk to your children about these stories? There is no universal way to broach these difficult subjects with kids— what’s appropriate will vary from family-to-family and child-to-child—but here are a few general suggestions from Claire McCarthy, MD, on how to help kids feel safe after they’re exposed to violent or disturbing news stories.

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Is your child media savvy?

Everyday young people are bombarded with images on TV, movies and the Internet. In that media blitz they are often exposed to advertisements, both direct and subtle, promoting everything from the newest clothes to the coolest toys. But bikes and shoes aren’t the only products marketers are trying to sell to kids; many products that negatively affect child health are also being pushed, with some serious repercussions. For instance, research shows a direct link between increases in advertising of non-nutritious foods and skyrocketing childhood obesity rates.

But if children were more aware of the influential nature of media, would they be less susceptible to it?

The answer is yes, according to a recent study published in Journal of Children and Media, and co-authored by David Bickham, PhD, staff scientist at Boston Children’s Hospital’s Center on Media and Child Health (CMCH) and Ronald Slaby, PhD, senior scientist at CMCH.

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Sexy ads sell–to little girls?

Have you heard about Thylane Blondeau, the 10-year-old model who caused such a stir this summer with her pictures in French Vogue?

In the pictures, she is made up to the hilt, in provocative poses, vamping for the camera. It caused outrage in the media and blogosphere, with people saying that it is wrong for a child to be so sexualized.

I showed the video to my 10-year-old daughter to get her reaction. “That’s horrible,” she said. When I asked her why, she said it was because Thylane was dressed like a grown-up.  The clothing and the makeup she was wearing in the pictures were not okay, according to Natasha. “She’s only ten!” she said.

(Click here to see an ABC News clip on the shoot.)

Well, okay then. This is so wrong that even a 10-year-old sees it immediately.

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My daughter can't sleep because of a scary news story, what can I do?

michaelrich_small1-198x3002Media expert Michael Rich, MD, MPH, director of the Center on Media and Child Health at Children’s Hospital Boston, answers your questions about media use. Last week, he talked about parents setting a good example concerning excessive media use in the home.

Here’s this week’s question:

Q: In spite of telling my 6-year-old daughter about stranger danger, she kept running to the front door and opening it as soon as the doorbell rang. One day, I told her the Elizabeth Smart kidnapping story and explained to her that it is not safe to run to the door when strangers ring the bell. I told her to let adults do the talking when that happens. Ever since I told her this story 4 months ago, she comes to our room scared at night and says that she wants all the lights on in the house.

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