I ended up blathering on about media and kids in a posting to our homeschool group and thought I would share it here.....
We believe that media is an important part of our lives, it is integral to how most of the adult world functions, and it is something that our kids will be living / working / playing with for most of their lives. Moreover, the technologies that they will be using are inconceivable to us today.
I believe that there is a lot of good things in the media, and also a lot of mediocre or bad stuff there. And lets be honest, some of what is out there is down right evil.
So here is how media fits into our lives...we have a TV, but no cable. We as a family watch movies, minus the previews, and with parental supervision (at least the first time that they watch a movie). I have a good idea of what the boys enjoy, what they are comfortable watching, and what I am comfortable with them seeing. Sometimes that matches the noted rating on a movie, sometimes it doesn't.
We have a computer, that William (6 1/2) uses for educational games, research, and fun stuff (LEGO.com and National Geographic Kids, mostly!!) He uses the computer only when my husband or I are close by, and stays on his marked 'Favourites" unless we are right with him.
We listen to a lot of radio, mostly music or CBC (Will is a huge of Quirks and Quarks - who would have thunk it!)
We have a strict 'no news' policy in the house (with regards to the boys).
We try to limit the overall screen time that the boys have to less than 1 hour of 'recreational media' each day, and that is a mixture of mediums. If William has been playing video games as a bit of a break in the afternoon, we do something different in the evening. If we have been out all day and the kids (and parents!) need some 'down time' after dinner, I don't mind if they want to watch a movie before bed. In the summer we watch less, in the winter, a little more.
I think that I would be more worried about the amount of screen time that they have if we were not homeschooling - even with a few video games or movies mixed into some of their days, the boys still spend most of their time playing, running, exploring, creating, and learning.
We also talk a lot about the choices that we have made regarding media, and why we have made them. We talk about what our family believes, and how it might be different from what other people believe - and that that is alright. We discuss how important it is to us to learn about other people, places and things in the world, and how important it is to have accurate information from which to learn. We talk about the fact that just because something is written down (published or on-line) does not mean that it is true. We talk about differences in opinion, biases, and slander. We say (often) that other people may do things differently, but that in our family we do things this way.
We explain to the boys that once an image is in your head, you can never, ever, get rid of it.
We also talk a lot about marketing. I know that the boys are exposed to marketing each and every day. Even without TV, or exposure to media at school or through peers, it seeps into their consciousness. So we talk about it. We talk about McDonalds - why you might eat there, why you might not. We note how nice it is to buy foods from a farmers market or CSA, and how it is different from buying food that has been grown across the world in a big store. We talk about what 'cheap' means - in price and in quality, and how that should effect our decisions and purchases.
So I guess that sums it up - our family is media-friendly, but not media-run. I hope that the boys are learning how to enjoy technology and all of its benefits, and also to be critical of its drawbacks and risks. I want more than anything for them to be able to think critically about media, to enjoy what it has to offer, and to never forget that watching other people's 'lives' on television is no substitute for having a life of your own.
I'll let you know in about 20 years how it has turned out!