Teachers have a significant influence on their students. Our students are now spending more time with the media than they are in school. The lessons that they learn from the media often are quite different than the ones we teach in school. While we teach our students to solve their conflicts through peaceful means, the media teaches them to use violence. While we teach our students to respect others, the media teaches them sexist and racist attitudes.
In order to help our students sort out these conflicting messages, we need to educate ourselves first. Here are some suggestions to help you get started.
Download our guides for detailed information about the effects of media on children. There are also several excellent books you can read.
- Carlsson-Paige, N. (2008). Taking Back Childhood: Helping Your Kids Thrive in a Fast-Paced, Media-Saturated, Violence-Filled World. New York: Hudson Street Press.
- Levin, D. (1998). Remote Control Childhood? Combating the Hazards of Media Culture. Washington, DC: NAEYC.
- Levin, D. (2003). Teaching Young Children in Violent Times: Building a Peaceable Classroom (2nd Ed.). Cambridge, MA: Educators For Social Responsibility & Washington, DC: National Assoc. for the Education of Young Children.
- Levin, D. & Kilbourne, J. (2008). So Sexy So Soon: The New Sexualized Childhood & What Parents Can Do To Protect Their Kids. New York: Ballantine Books. [sosexysosoon.com]
Assess your own classroom.
- Eliminate all commercial and media linked materials- books, games, posters, computer programs, curriculum. Look for media characters such as Disney princesses and superheroes. These characters are advertisements for the products and media to which they are connected. Classrooms are not appropriate venues for ads. Inspect your dramatic play corner to make sure that dress-up clothes, and dolls represent more than one ethnic group and are not commercially linked.
- Review your classroom library for books that contain racist or sexist images. Chose high quality books with age- appropriate themes.
- Make sure to have books and posters of people of different ethic backgrounds.
- Provide open ended materials for your students to play.
- Read books about both girls and boys who are powerful.
- Examine your daily schedule. Does it provide time every day for creative play? Is there a balance between the arts and academic activities?
Assess your students' use of media.
Send home a survey of how many hours kids spend in front of screen. What are they watching? How many hours do the spend with family, reading, playing? Watch their favorite shows so you can understand what they are seeing.
Educate the parents.
- At your next parent teacher conference, hand out our guide and explain to parents why you are concerned about the media's influence.
- Publish weekly newsletter discussing the ways you promote creative play, social and emotional learning in your classroom.
Educate your colleagues.