Parenting Your Children’s Media

Dear Dr. Bill,

I just learned that my 7-year-old son saw violent and sexually explicit cable movies at the home of one of his friends.  Could this have negative long-term effects?  Also, how can I prevent this from happening in the future?



Dear Dani,

Unfortunately this type of situation is becoming more and more common in today’s world.

Researchers have found a link between repeated exposure to violent media messages and aggressive behavior in children.  A regular diet of violent media or video games may also cause kids to be meaner and have less empathy for others.

Children who view pornographic images on cable or on the internet are given false and destructive messages about sex and relationships.  These messages can interfere with healthy marital intimacy later in life.

If your son was exposed to this type of material only once, he probably won’t suffer any negative long-term effects.  However, it is important to talk to him about this experience.  In a calm, non-judgmental way, ask him what he saw and how it made him feel.

You should also be teaching your son about making responsible choices.  Help him to understand that each decision he makes has consequences, and that there are times he will need to say “no” when offered things that may not be good for him.

Every parent should get to know the parents of their children’s friends and learn what their values are.  Find out what kind of media they allow their kids to watch and how closely they monitor their use of the Internet.

If they don’t share your values, don’t allow your kids to spend time at their home. Instead, invite those friends over to your house.  In addition to protecting your child, you’ll have a great opportunity to have a positive influence on those children!

Thanks for writing, Dani.

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