Dr. Dave's Cyberhood : Making Media Choices that Create a Healthy Electronic Environment for Your Kids
You wouldn't let your children wander off into an unfamiliar neighborhood alone -- nor should they be left to explore the vast world of electronic media by themselves.
You may have read about the effects violent television shows and video games can have on children, but you know the solution isn't simply to unplug everything. The key for parents, says Dr. David Walsh, founder and president of the nonprofit National Institute on Media and the Family, is to be informed and involved when choosing the electronic environments where kids play and learn.
Dr. Dave's Cyberhood helps parents take stock of the growing number of films, TV shows, video games, music, and web sites that stream into their homes every day. With Dr. Dave as a guide, you can
- Teach kids how to interact with media responsibly -- whether they're playing alone or with friends
- Evaluate the content of videos, electronic games, and web sites to help you decide if they are appropriate for your family
- Talk openly with your kids about the kinds of media they like and map out cyberhoods that everyone can agree on
Complete with hands-on activities and positive recommendations for a variety of media products, Dr. Dave's Cyberhood gives parents the tools they need to find cyberhoods that their kids can enjoy -- and that they can trust.
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March 06, 2001
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Excerpt from Dr. Dave's Cyberhood by David Walsh
Chapter One: Parenting in the Media Age
Children are the purpose of life.
We were once children and someone took
care of us. Now it is our turn to care.
-- Cree Indian Elder
This quote has long been a favorite of mine, so centered and wise, so accepting of what parenthood is all about: making children the priority. All children deserve to come first, from rural towns and pulsing metros, living with two caregivers and one, economically secure and disadvantaged. As parents, our basic job is to care for our children: to see to their physical, emotional, social, and spiritual needs. Like you, the overwhelming majority of parents want to take good care of their children. It is with this belief that this book unfolds.
Just how you go about caring for your child depends on your individual family situation. If you live in the country, for example, keeping your child safe requires certain considerations, while living in a city neighborhood requires others. Or, if you work in an office full time, managing your child's care after school is different than if you work at home.
Whatever the mix of variables is, one factor that figures into the equation for all parents is the society in which they are raising their children. History has shown, many times over, how spectacular events reshape the world, changing the way people live, work, and communicate. Consider the invention of the printing press in the mid-fifteenth century. The implications were astounding. For the first time, printed information became widely available, the ability to read spread across generations, and literacy took root in civilization. The significance of this event goes much deeper: the ability to read and write transformed the way we think, in effect, ending the Dark Ages and beginning the Renaissance.
Whether you realize it, you exercise this transformation every time you move from spoken to written language. Just think about how your vocabulary expands when you write. You take the time to choose the words that most precisely, powerfully, or effectively capture what you want to communicate. When you speak, you have to the pull the words out quickly to keep a sentence going. Written language also brings discipline to the thought process. When you write, you have to organize your thinking differently from when you speak; writing is not just a stream of consciousness. You have to systemize your thoughts into outlines, paragraphs, and chapters. When you look at the whole picture, that one event -- the invention of the printing press -- is pretty impressive.
New York University professor Neil Postman adds yet another chapter to the legacy of the printing press. He argues that its invention led to the actual concept of childhood -- the notion that children go through stages of development to become adults. Prior to the availability of the printed word, children were thought of as a minature adults or little people. This perspective began to change with the realization that learning to read and write does not happen overnight; that children learn and develop this skill over a period of years. The idea of childhood as a time of development began to take shape. Coming from our contemporary perspective, where there is so much focus on issues of child development, it's hard to imagine there was a time when being a child simply meant being a little person.
Another history-making, culture-shaking event took place in the early nineteenth century: the Industrial Revolution. We consider it significant because it gave rise to mass production. Goods that were made more efficiently, in greater quantities, and of higher quality, meant a higher standard of living.