'Teach children to distinguish fact from fiction'

'Teach children to distinguish fact from fiction'

Media Literacy

The influence of media, especially social and electronic media, on our lives is undeniable, and it seems to have had a big impact on the youth as well. So much so that ‘media dependency’ for most youngsters, say experts, is now at an all time high.

Metrolife spoke to mental health experts about this raging phenomenon and the ‘detrimental effect’, if at all, it can have on the youth of today, the future of tomorrow. Here’s what they had to say...

“Children or even individuals in adolescence are the most impressionable in the human race. Anything that they see, hear or feel gets ingrained in their minds and once that is done, the process of erasing it is a very tough one. As they absorb all that they get like a sponge might with liquid, the impact of the media on these young minds is actually staggering,” says Dr Samir Parikh, director, Department of Mental Health and Behavioural Sciences, Fortis Healthcare.

While the media can be ‘significantly detrimental in its influence on the youth’ of the country, it isn’t all bad. In fact, there is no doubt that the media ‘can be extremely beneficial in creating empowerment and encouraging the growth of a democratic society’. There are innumerable possibilities opened up by the media, but only if it is used with complete awareness and responsibility.

Dr Parikh feels that the “paramount need of the hour is to educate ourselves about the source, purpose, as well as messages provided via the media. Be it a television show or an advertisement or even a podcast online with special attention to children and youth, who need to be educated with the ability to critically understand the messages shown by the media, in order to be able to guide them towards right decisions effectively.”

Dr Jyoti Kapoor, consultant psychiatrist and expert on psychotherapy, Paras Hospital, Gurgaon, too had a few inputs on this matter.

“It is the task of parents and guardians to help inculcate the ideas of right and wrong in the minds of children,” she tells Metrolife.

“If a child witnesses something objectionable, violent or sexual, the parents should be the first one to talk to them about it and not turn a blind eye and deaf ear, like some might, in hope that the child will forget. The child will remember and remember it well and will look for someone to talk about what he saw. Rather than having him go to people who may not have his best interests when they explain to the child, I feel that the parents should step up and make the child understand in a way that the child can comprehend, heeding his maturity level which may differ from for different children, clear all doubts that might be there and nip the issue in the bud,” advises Dr Kapoor.

She went on to stress on the fact that “parents and guardians need to teach children to be able to distinguish fact from fiction when it came to media messages and identify the stereotypes that run rampant.”

Cyber safety is also another major concern that needs to be addressed. “Personally, I don’t believe in the banning of any material, primarily because the more you ban a certain thing, the quicker it finds a way to get to the masses. With the internet, nothing is really banned. These bans only exist on paper. The web does not care for them one bit.

Rather than banning, teaching a child to say no to things that could be malevolent is more effective. This way, not only are you teaching the child a lesson but also allowing him to be independent when a similar situation rears its head in the future” Dr Kapoor added.

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