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Teach your children well

Posted October 13, 2006

At a recent conference hosted by the Action Coalition for Media Education (ACME), a national group of media educators and media professionals, hundreds of people from around the country gathered to confront what they see as a media crisis.

Conference presenters tackled everything from getting in front of the media — in terms of coverage of actions and events — to creating media.

However, one of the key components of the conference was to educate teachers, and others, on how to create “media savvy” children so they become smart consumers of media, and open their minds to diverse opinions, perspectives, and dialogue.

Bob McCannon, of the New Mexico Media Literacy Project, and a member of ACME, has these suggestions that parents, teachers, and concerned caregivers should consider in any effort to guide children through the fast-paced world of media — from advertising to program content, be it news or entertainment:

  • Actively engage children in talking, playing, reading, listening to books and music, and creating imaginative games. These promote alternatives to TV watching.
  • Help children recognize the good and the bad in media consumption, rather than just having them tune it out completely.
  • Develop limits for screen consumption — TV, video games, and computers combined.
  • Learn, for yourself, media’s persuasive techniques and then teach them to your children — this may mean sitting down with them to watch the program.
  • Watch programs on tape so you can discuss the programs (and fast forward through commercials).
  • Insist that children become critical media consumers — ask them questions about what they are watching so they don’t passively accept what comes across the screen.
  • Encourage children to produce their own media through art, writing, music, and video production.

While these aren’t the only approaches you can take with your children, we all want kids to grow up and able to dissect the distortions and spin put through the mainstream media by politicians, advertising executives, and others who hope to persuade for gain, rather than persuade for purpose. As with many things, the key to success for our kids begins at home.

Truth in advertising

A recent political effort targeting Democratic legislators — and a couple of Progressives — by the Vermont Business Coalition is a clear example of what happens when you fail to fully disclose your efforts to the public.

The coalition is made up of 12 member organizations, and since the campaign began a number of members, especially in the Vermont Chamber of Commerce, which is spearheading the coalition’s efforts, have disavowed the campaign in personal correspondence to the targeted lawmakers or dropped their membership altogether.

To date, the Vermont Student Assistance Corporation, the University of Vermont, and the Association of Vermont Independent Colleges, and all of its members, have withdrawn their membership from the chamber. While the Vermont State Colleges (VSC) have not withdrawn their membership, it has informed by letter all of the targeted legislators that VSC in no way condones the action taken by the coalition.

Clearly, the leaders of the various organizations involved in this effort want to see more Republicans elected to the Legislature as they hope it will further their own causes.

What these folks realize, and perhaps the chamber doesn’t, is that Vermonters of all political background have an interest in seeing businesses thrive in the state. Having a pro-business agenda is one thing, but when there are so many challenges facing Vermonters, and Vermont businesses, such a blatant partisan ploy is certainly not something that can be labeled “made in Vermont.”

Note to readers: We neglected to note in last week’s paper that Kate Casa, the paper’s co-editor and anchor voice in Southern Vermont, has decided to take on a new media challenge by taking on the editorial reins at the Brattleboro Commons. While we are keeping our Brattleboro office, and do expect Kate’s byline to continue to appear in the Guardian from time to time along with other Commons writers, the paper will not be the same without her. We wish her the best, and thank her for sharing her passion to create independent media with the Guardian.