When Children See Scary and Violent Media: How We Can Help (Article)

Peace Educators Allied for Children Everywhere
NAEYC, Washington, D.C., November, 2009

Limit screen time for young children.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no screen time at all for children under the age of two and no more than one to two hours of quality TV and videos a day for older children.

Try to see media from children’s eyes.
Remember that kids don’t understand the world like adults do.  They interpret media in their own unique ways and need protection from violent and scary images.

Support children’s healthy play.
Play will be a main resource children use to work through any scary and violent media they see.
Try to provide uninterrupted, unstructured playtime for children every day.
Give children open-ended materials that allow them to express their ideas, feelings and fears.
Avoid single-purpose, media-linked toys that limit creative, original, beneficial play.

Observe children’s play to see how media enters in.
Ask yourself:  what themes are coming up in children’s play?  Do I see the influence of media?  Are the children reenacting a scary and violent script from media? Are children’s own ideas and imaginations entering their play?

Intervene in children’s play when needed.
Make comments, ask questions, and suggest materials that will help children expand scripted play and benefit from imaginative, original, healthy play.

Talk with children about the scary and violent media they have seen.
When children mention media they’ve seen, try to listen to them with full attention.
Ask open-ended questions to find out more about a child’s thoughts and feelings.
Encourage children to use art and play materials, as well as conversation, to express themselves.
Offer reassurance or explanations when these are needed.

Educate yourself and others about the effects of media on children.
Find valuable resources from TRUCE (Teachers Resisting Unhealthy Children’s Entertainment: www.truceteachers.org).
Find valuable resources from CCFC (Campaign for Commercial Free Childhood: www.commercialexploitation.org).
Offer workshops for educators and parents on media and its impact on children.

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