A recent study showed that violent media impacts not only the behaviour but also the mental health of young children, particularly those who are gifted ("Gifted kids 'more affected by violence'"; Monday).
Parents can do a few things to ensure their young children, whether gifted or not, are watching only what is beneficial to them.
First, parents can take the initiative to decide on the kinds of programmes their children can watch, when they will watch them, and how much time they can spend on them.
Parents can exercise discernment by watching or reading up on these media content first before letting their children watch it.
Even some General-rated cartoons may contain messages that go against cherished family values.
There is also a need to exercise care with video games.
Even though younger children may not effectively manoeuvre the game controls, they may end up being exposed to grisly and disturbing images while watching a game being played by someone else.
Second, it is ideal for parents to be present with their children when any form of media is being viewed.
In this way, parents can monitor what is happening on screen, and be able to turn the programme off if the content becomes questionable or violent.
This also provides an avenue for communication. When the show is over, parents can take the opportunity to talk to children about what they have just watched.
For example, saying "That boy didn't speak very nicely to his mum, did he?" can serve as a good springboard for parents to talk about important values, such as respect.
Third, it is best for parents not to get into the habit of using digital devices as an electronic babysitter.
After a long day, it may be tempting to place children in front of the screen while parents run errands or rest.
However, this leaves children with unsupervised time during which they may encounter unhelpful media content.
If parents need a break, they can instead put on specific programmes they are certain contain healthy and wholesome children's content, and hold a debrief afterwards.
Media is a powerful platform that can impact children for good or for ill.
Giving more attention and care to children's media diet would protect their minds from harmful content and ensure that they are on track in their developmental years.
Sarah Chua (Ms)
Focus on the Family Singapore