My husband maintains that the first thing that children should be taught is media criticism. Perhaps that's why toilet training has taken so long! (Sorry.)
He does have a point though. Today's children need first and foremost to be able to protect themselves against the relentless onslaught of input and mind-bending manipulations from the powerful media presence that has grown to be almost a physical layer in our lives.
It used to be that your child just needed to know how to be good and to do the right thing, even if the bully down the street wanted them to do something different, or even if his buddies were, say, going to the store to steal candy. Nowadays, the stakes are immensely higher. Almost unrealistically so, if you think about the type of thing that kids watch in regular TV on a regular basis.
Healthy media for children
From MediaLiteracy.com: Media are now the most powerful cultural forces on the planet. Media products entertain us, inform us, and help us stay connected to our community and the world. But not all is positive. Public relations spin, hyper-commercialization, violence packaged as "entertainment," news bias, digital photo manipulation and other issued provide may preasons why both children and adults need media literacy skills.
Overview to healthy media
And here's an interesting essay on why watching violent media might be good for kids! Just found out about an interesting organization called Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood. I like their focus! BTW, they accept NO corporate funding so drop them a dime if you like their stuff.
Media Reviews for Parents
Here's the Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry's page on Kids and Popular Culture, which contains reviews of current movies and games. Transparency is a website which garnered the following comment from a reviewer. "Media critic Ken Sanes remarkable web site, full of thoughtful essays about the challenges and delights of living in a media saturated society."
Books on media
Someone just recommended that I read Susan Linn's book Consuming Kids: The Hostile Takeover of Childhood. I don't think that I'm going to, frankly. There is so much neat information out there that I don't have time to read a book essentially telling me what I already know. If you wonder about this topic though, hey, it sounds great!
Media guides for parents
Just ran into Common Sense Media. It seems nice and you might want to link to it or visit it since they actually recommend movies, TV, games, music, websites, and books!. Well rounded! Seems really aimed at the 8 and above kid-types, but it's well-written and the ratings aren't too .. Pentacostal, if you catch my drift. Have you heard of Kidsnet? I hadn't. This is from their site:
"KIDSNET helps children, families and educators intelligently access the educational opportunities available from television, radio and multimedia sources. KIDSNET does this by encouraging media literacy in children and a commitment to educational excellence in broadcasters.
Since 1985, KIDSNET has worked with health and social service professionals, community organizations and educators, as well as media professionals and parents to create and disseminate educational materials for children ages preschool through high school. KIDSNET is the only national non-profit computerized clearinghouse and information center devoted to children's television, radio, audio, video and multimedia."
Here's the rating site that gives me a slight worried feeling. It might be silly, but the tag phrase of GradingtheMovies.com is "Helping Families Find Entertainment with Values," which now in America means "piping propaganda into your child's brain under the ostensible direction of the Lord Jesus Christ and whichever manipulative person is choosing to "directly interpret" him this week. Ahem. However, I've scanned through this site, and it looks as though it might be of some interest. I have to say that I would NOT rely upon it for ratings, more for content. They recommended Polar Express as an "A" and I have a four year old and have been told by about ten mothers that they had to take their child out of the theatre/kid was crying/kid was covering their face. In other words, I'd look at Common Sense Media first, and then this one, or, if you have an older child, this tells you good subratings. And then there's TRUCE. That's Teachers Resisting Unhealthy Children's Entertainment. These people are well-meaning, but they have these TERRIBLE Adobe Acrobat documents that you're supposed to read to see what they have to say. Ugh. At any rate, they have a media violence guide. It contains some statistics about TV watching, sample dialogues to have with your child about violence that they see and how people act on TV, sample protest letters to write, and a list of contacts at the end of the document. You might want to introduce your child's teacher to this organization.
Media-savvy Parenting and Video Games
First off, let me highly recommend GamerDad. He's a dad (doesn't play one on TV) who loves games and gives you the straight information on them - from a gamer dad's point of view. Here's an amusing report called "The 12th Annual MediaWise Report Card" put together by Colleen Hannon (GamerMom, apparently - GamerDad's wife.) I found it excellent for a little background on who the people reviewing and rating media are and how they are doing. GamerDad's website is chock full of great information, including a holiday guide, and Unplugged - which lists fun games that are not video.
Alternatives to TV
Television for children with problems
Learning disabilities and TV
Here's an interesting article of how many children watch TV and how much in the USA. Also talks about the effects of TV and how to manage it.
A related topic: the commercialism of childhood