Michael Thompson, Ph.D.
How do you balancing the images kids see in the media?
Go with your values. If you donít want your little girls to dress in very sexy ways and show their midriff and if you donít want them to dress like 18-year-olds, then donít let them dress like 18-year-olds. They may be mad and say, ďMom, all the other girls dress this way.Ē And thatís fine.
When children reply, ďBut all my friends are wearing that!Ē
Nobody ever died of a strict mom, you know? Itís not the end of the world. You have to live your values. The most important thing that a parent can do to combat these images from the media is to show them that thatís not the life youíre leading. If theyíre seeing stereotyped images, you as a mother need to prove to them that moms do work, that moms are athletic, that moms do take risks. If youíre a father, show that dads do change diapers, and they do cook. If you want to fight gender stereotype or any excessive kind of sexualization of childhood, you fight it at home by modeling something different and not dressing your children way above their age.
Should You Forbid Any TV Viewing?
Iím not a total purist. I think that kids can be exposed to the things their friends are seeing. Just limit their screen time. But donít pander to children. If they say, ďI have to have this. I canít live without this. Mommy, mommy, mom!Ē they have to learn that not every materialistic thing they see on the screen is something that you have to buy for them, or their lifeís over.
Role Model Positive Behavior
People overestimate how powerful media images are, because I believe that children love their parents, admire their parents. They want to be like their parents. If a boy sees his dad cooking, then he will think cooking is a masculine thing. If a girl sees her mother taking some athletic risk, such as surfing, then she will grow up knowing women can do athletic activities.