By Irene Nakasiita
The power of the media can never be underestimated. It is far reaching, far touching and deeply sinking in the minds of the viewers. Media’s presence in children’s lives is totally ubiquitous.
Today, especially in holidays, children spend almost six hours a day with media. The potentially negative consequences of children’s media consumption receive a lot of attention. Yet media’s unique power and reach can also be used to educate children and enrich their lives.
Television, which once dominated children’s media consumption habits, is now joined by computers, video game players, cell phones and other connected devices. The result is that children today are completely immersed in media experiences from a very young age. Regulating the impact these experiences are having on our children has become very challenging for parents and policymakers.
From experience, I happen to be a Sunday school teacher at my local church in Nateete. A parent to a 12 year old girl came to me for advice. Her daughter Jane (not real names) is in primary six. She has always been a bright girl in school and very confident. Of recent, Jane has changed. The teachers complain about her being relaxed and not performing to their expectation.
Jane’s mother was advised to have time with her daughter to help her with home work.
While going through the mathematics textbook, a beautifully decorated note fell out. Jane rushed to pick it and hide it away from her mother. She insisted and managed to read the note. It was actually a love letter written by Jane to one of the boys in class. This was so shocking; to her. Boys are known to make first moves; but this time Jane was asking the boy to love her.
This mother became furious and slapped Jane. She got confused, annoyed and gnashed her teeth. This was too much to contain! Being a Christian woman, she felt she would handle this the Christian way by letting Jane’s Sunday school teacher speak to her with Christian words of wisdom. I felt I had been given a hard task, although as a mentor to these lovely children, this was just an opportunity for me to make a difference in Jane’s life.
It was actually not hard. Jane freely told me she had watched a soap opera where one female character fell in love with a man whom she felt she would let know how exactly she felt about him. Jane too loved this boy in her class but she was afraid to tell the boy, and chose to write this note although she had not yet sent it.
I was not surprised. Adolescence starts around age 12 and being a “town child”, I know soap operas are part of what most urban television channels broadcast 24/7. Jane only needed to be guided and since most of the soaps are ‘PG’ (parental guidance) programmes, Jane’s mother too has a big role to play in shaping her child into the kind of lady she would like her to be in life.
We have all this media to our disposal, our children are everywhere running up and about as they grow from one stage to another and learning new things. But what are we doing to regulate / control what they watch? Do we have the time? Are we bothered? How do we support them?
This is something every parent/ guardian should think about since at every opportunity, children like any other human being have a sense of autonomy and will hold the remote to tune to the channel of their choice. No parent should be too busy for their child’s life. In any case, your child should be number one priority for it might be too late for you correct the already existing damages.
The writer is a child advocate