Parental involvement key to raising media-savvy kids

There is a need for parents to teach their children how to be discerning and safe in their media consumption.
There is a need for parents to teach their children how to be discerning and safe in their media consumption.PHOTO: ST FILE

It is of concern that children's online behaviour has made their parents vulnerable to hacking and put themselves at risk of online scams, cyber bullying, online predators and intrusion of privacy, and that most parents in Singapore do not frequently act to protect their children's cyber safety ("Children a 'weak link in household cyber security'"; last Thursday).

With these rising media dangers, there is a need for parents to teach their children how to be discerning and safe in their media consumption. As a first step, it is important for parents to know the effects of the media on their children.

Some popular television shows have a fair amount of sexual content. Research has found that the more sexual content teenagers watch on television, the more likely and sooner they are to initiate sexual intercourse or progress to more advanced sexual activities.

Findings also reveal that sexual content on television, whether explicit or suggested, influences teenage sexual activity.

When it comes to the media depicting violence, a three-year study of primary and secondary school students in Singapore found that those who played more violent video games tend to be more likely to commit acts of physical aggression ("Violent video games linked to aggressive thoughts, behaviour"; March 29, 2014).

This applies regardless of the students' gender, history of aggression and whether or not their parents limit how long they play video games.

In determining if the media has a positive or negative effect on children and the family, parents have an especially important role. They need to help their children practise discernment so that they will be safe and savvy in their media consumption.

However, the media can also have positive effects. Shows depicting sexual risks and consequences can teach accurate information about such risks and encourage teenagers to talk with their parents about these messages.

In the same way, video games that portray kind acts can lead to helpful behaviour in real life.

In determining if the media has a positive or negative effect on children and the family, parents have an especially important role.

They need to help their children practise discernment so that they will be safe and savvy in their media consumption.

We believe in equipping parents, through workshops and talks, to help their children make good decisions for their physical and psychological safety in today's media-hyped world.

Vicky Ho (Ms)

Head

Research and Development

Focus on the Family Singapore

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 09, 2016, with the headline 'Parental involvement key to raising media-savvy kids'. Print Edition | Subscribe