Common Sense Media

Social and Emotional Health: Media Role Models

Your child is bombarded with media messages about ethics and values that often run counter to yours. Here is what you can do to counter them.

You want your kids to have a healthy social life and do well in school. You want them to behave morally and have good values. For that, they need hefty doses of self-esteem and a strong sense of right and wrong. That's what leads to respectful, responsible and appropriate relationships. But the media often model and encourage just the opposite. Reality TV shows - which routinely rank in the top 10 for preteen viewing - glamorize people who lie and ruthlessly stab each other in the back to win competitions. Email, IMs and cell phone text messaging have become new ways to cheat and bully. Rampant consumerism helps kids define who they are by what they own. And gender and racial stereotypes abound in video games, movies, TV shows and music, sending kids unhealthy messages about social norms.

Why You Should Care

Because the media is one all-encompassing, always-present, giant role model and "super-peer" for kids. Because kids spend more time absorbing the media's messages as they get older than they do absorbing ours. Because what they see, hear and play models views and behavior that may conflict with our own sense of healthy values and conduct. Because the commercial nature of today's media makes kids put enormous emphasis on what they own, leaving them vulnerable to more anxiety and depression. We have to ask what expectations the media is creating for our kids - and what counterbalancing messages we need to give them so they grow up with healthy social skills and attitudes.

Some Facts You Should Know

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Common Sense Media is a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping parents make informed media and entertainment choices for their families.