Tip # 23 – Talk Reality about the Effects of Reality TV

Nov 08

Do your kids watch reality TV? If so, perhaps you should consider the effects of reality TV on their view of themselves and those around them. The recent Girls Scout Research Institute’s study of 1,100 girls found significant differences between reality show fans and non-fans. Besides the obvious concern that many of these series’ glorify vacuous women whose sole objective in life is to look prettier than that woman, the research on television list additional reasons why a parent should pay attention to their kids’ viewing habits of the boob tube (no anatomical pun intended).

All or most of the girls in the study (fans and non-fans) concluded that reality shows:

  • Promote bad behaviour. (100% of girls)
  • “Often pit girls against each other to make the shows more exciting.” (86% of girls)
  • “Make people think that fighting is a normal part of a romantic relationship.” (73% of girls)
  • “Make people think it’s okay to treat others badly.” (70% of girls)

Reality show aficionados are more likely than those who do not watch the shows to believe:

  • Gossiping is a normal part of a relationship between girls
  • It’s in girls’ nature to be catty and competitive with one another
  • It’s hard to trust other girls.
  • Girls often have to compete for a guy’s attention
  • They are happier when dating someone than not.

Surprisingly, however, these same Jersey Shore and Kardashian viewers are more self-assured than those who shun reality TV and are more likely to aspire to leadership, as well as currently see themselves as leaders.  The caveat is how they may be achieving their status of leadership since they are more likely to think “you have to lie to get what you want,” that “being mean earns you more respect than being nice,” and “you have to be mean to others to get what you want.”  One must ask: Are these the kinds of girls we want as leaders? Certainly gives pause for thought.

Scaling back on reality TV may be the ideal solution in a household where all things Kardashian rule, however, parents can also choose to join their kids at the screen. Point out the unrealistic aspects of these “reality” shows (how many hours and hired assistants does it take to make a Kardashian look fabulous?) When an explosive fight breaks out, explain that real friends do not gossip and say hurtful things to one another, but rather support each other through good times and bad. Eventually, your kids may see the light and realize their time spent watching mean girls on TV could be better spent elsewhere. Or maybe your rolling commentary will drive them to give up their guilty pleasure. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing, either.

Photo by xposurephotos.com

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Tip #22 – Get Comfortable with Saying No

Oct 12

We live in a Yes culture.  With an abundant society such as the one in which we live, we don’t have much choice.  Back in the day (wa-a-a-ay back) when the family’s dinner consisted of what little food they could scrape together, a parent didn’t have to say no.  Any child could clearly see there were no seconds to be eaten.  There were no desserts to beg over.  There were few, if any toys, to ask for.  Fast forward to today.  Kids are surrounded by a cornucopia of opportunities to eat, play, and purchase till their every desire is satiated (at least for that moment).

That means the burden of self-control falls upon the parents’ shoulders.  Sure, the kids could play video games all day.  Just like they could eat chips and chocolate bars between every meal.  They could own the best digital devices on the market.  And they could update their Facebook profiles every five minutes.  But none of that is good for them, despite their misguided belief that it is, in fact, exactly what they need to find true happiness.

In my home, the screen is the dangling carrot for my kids, beckoning them the second that a sliver of boredom creeps into their consciousness.  ”Mom, can I play computer?”  ”Mom, can I play with your iPhone?”  ”Mom, can we play wii?”  I don’t enjoy saying no.  I really don’t.  However, in my efforts to teach them to entertain themselves as well as instil in them a sense of responsible use of time, I am forced to say no way more than they’d like to hear.

In return, I’ve received my fair share of unkind utterances from my boys.  The most popular among them is calling me the meanest mom they know.  I don’t take it personally, although sometimes it does sting just a little.  But my reward is seeing them outside playing games, skateboarding, bike riding, or building a fort in the woods when they could have been sitting in the basement staring at the screen.  All thanks to that little two-lettered word.  One day when they’re older, I tell them, they’ll realize that it was their reward, too.

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Tip #19 – Offer Guidance and Independence When Kids Research Online

Sep 16

“I need to look something up on the internet.”  Ooooh, how I hate to hear these words from my kids.  Now that school is back in full swing, they’ll be throwing that at me more than ever.  My reactionary, old-school, protective impulse is to cry out: What’s wrong with the library?”  But no.  I must allow my children to learn using all these newfangled tools. In fact, I know that teachers are mandated to include online research opportunities for kids in their curriculum.

So I bite my tongue.  With the same trepidation that I allow my 11-year-old son to ride his bike to school, I have to let him and his younger brothers have some autonomy to travel online too.  In both cases, they’re likely to get a bit lost (today, said son rode in the opposite direction of the friend’s house to whom he was visiting. Yikes – glad I was there to set him straight!)

With some hands-on guidance I allow my boys to research inside the world wild web.  Here, however, are some useful tips that I follow to ensure they find the topic that they need, rather than a topic that will elicit broccoli choking questions at the dinner table:

  • Start the topic search together, offering ideas as to what kinds of words will help them find what they’re looking for.  For example: don’t let them type in cougar if they’re doing a project on wild cats.
  • Remind your child that Wikipedia is not the only source of information online and encourage them to find websites that are written in more kid-friendly language.  For example: National Geographic Kids and Yahooligans offer great info for students.
  • Try different search engines. Google is great, but Bing and Yahoo will offer different results that may be more attuned to what they’re looking for.
  • Remind your child to be specific in their search.  The more description they type in, the narrower the results will be.
  • Consider your safety setting on the computer your child is using.  Is it set for children? Or is he or she using your personal laptop that has no filters?  You won’t want to leave him alone for long on a computer that does not censor its google results.
  • Add a minus sign before a topic word to indicate that you do not want any search results that relate to that word.  For example, a search for Mars (the planet) should be followed by a -chocolate to prevent any results on the popular chocolate bar fro popping up.
  • Remind your kids that there are a lot of things on the internet that are inappropriate for children – and adults, for that matter.  Tell them that you, as a parent, also have to be careful about what you search for online because there are images and pieces of information on the web that are not suitable for your viewing either.
  • Encourage them to be critical of the source of the online information.  Is it a reliable source?  National Geographic Kids is going to be more reliable than Macsfavoriteanimals.com.

Of course, if the online sources fall short of expect ions, you can always visit the local library.  That’s my old-school self talking.

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Forget January, These Resolutions Start September

Sep 07

School officially starts today for my boys.  True to boy-form, my kids have no desire to re-enter their school.  Not the least of their reasons why include the return of my video game ban from Monday to Thursday, practicing their instruments daily, the end of peanut butter sandwiches, and being barked at by the school bus driver to sit down every morning and afternoon.

While I’m as ready as an egg on devil’s night for the kids to return to school, I empathize with them.  It’s not easy to transition from the carefree days of summer to those dedicated mostly to desk-sitting and teacher-listening.  Although my kids recognize there are some perks to returning to academia (friends, recess, new running shoes), they know a raw deal when they see it.

That’s why this time of year seems an ideal time to set resolutions for myself.  As my kids forge ahead into their new school year, with new responsibilities and the pressure to learn new things, earn good marks, and meet the teachers’  raised expectations of behaviour because “you’re one year older”, I will also set some standards that seemed way too much effort only a few days ago as I sipped Pinot Grigio on a cottage dock.

My resolutions (in no particular order of importance):

  1. Be a cheerleader to my kids more often than a critic – even when their piano rendition of Ode to Joy makes me want to cry (from all the money I spend on lessons).
  2. Learn all the cool things I can do with my new MacBook Pro so I can create better author visits, better blog pages, better videos, and be one of those cool Apple people that just seem to know more about technology than the rest of us.
  3. Teach my kids all the cool things they can do with a Mac that will help them use technology creatively (or earn riches posting irritating, yet funny, videos on YouTube).
  4. Create an amazing, interactive Author Visit presentation that keeps kids interested, yet inspires them to be creative (PLUG: if you haven’t bought my kids’ book yet, check it out here:  AWESOME BOOK.)
  5. Update my blog at least twice per week and reach #50 of the top 50 tips by Christmas.
  6. Keep up my querying and networking to find a commercial publisher for my book series.  (PLUG: see #4)
  7. Start drafting a new book (Book #3 perhaps?).
  8. Return to getting up painfully early in the morning to get a head start on my writing.
  9. Stay on top of my kids’ digital know-how to ensure we maintain an open discussion on how it affects their lives (and to ensure I get to read all their emails without being forced to use underhanded means).
  10. Return all my kids’  library books on time and use the money I save on fines to buy fancy Starbucks coffees.
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