Role Models in the Media: Who do your children look up to?

“In today’s 24/7 media environment, in which kids may be spending more time with media than they are with their parents, choosing positive role models is more important than ever.” Commonsense Media


Image courtesy of Public Domain Images

We all know the child in preschool who is so fascinated with Spider Man that he comes to school dressed in a red suit for three weeks straight. It is amazing to see such a small child completely identify with their hero, not only wearing the spider-suit, but jumping around and staying completely in character at all times. To say that they are obsessed, would be an understatement.

Once you’ve seen the overwhelming influence that a role model such as a superhero or animated character can have on a small child, you realise just how impressionable they are, and just how many opportunities for influence, both good and bad, there are in the media today. If your child likes “Frozen”, they can practically live in a Frozen world – outfits, music and sing-along videos, not to mention themed parties and elaborate cakes. Do we indulge this (often expensive) fantasy world, and where do we draw the line when it comes to violent or otherwise unsuitable media figures?

Here are some tips for dealing with, and encouraging a positive media diet that includes good role models:

  • Keep track of what your child is watching.  If you don’t know what they are being exposed to, you cannot protect them. Don’t be afraid to pull the plug on material that you feel is unsuitable.
  • See that media content is age-appropriate. At the very least, this should be your benchmark. Children are blank slates and impressionable, so make sure that they are exposed to media items that are tailored to their age-group, and not being overwhelmed by content that they cannot understand or process.
  • Talk to your children about what they see and hear. If your child suddenly comes up with a new catchphrase, or a saying that is unfamiliar to you, find out where it comes from. Whether good or bad, a dialogue offers you the opportunity for discussion and allows you to convey your point of view.
  • Give them positive role models. Take the time to find some material that features positive role models that can teach your children about overcoming obstacles, about tolerance and doing good. With Mandela day coming up this month, we can think of no better role model to share with your kids.

Lastly, we as parents must remember that we are role models for our children in the real world, and that it’s up to us to embody those traits that we want to encourage in them.