Seminar teaches parents about the media

October 1, 2008

By Staff

How many parents are in your house? According to Gloria DeGaetano, author and founder of the Parent Coaching Institute, there may be more than you think.

“We’ve never, in the history of the human race, had parents with this other, third parent of a mass media onslaught,” she said.

That third parent, the mass media, and what parents can do to minimize its impact on their children, will be the focus of a presentation DeGaetano will give Oct. 6, called “Parenting Well in a Media Age.”

DeGaetano said she would show parents how to work to limit media exposure and educate them about how to make informed choices about what children should be exposed to. In particular, this means limiting screen time, be it with a television, computer or even a cell phone.

“In early childhood especially, children need more time in three-dimensional reality,” she said.

DeGaetano will help explain the reasons for limits.

Allowing children too much time watching screens can negatively impact their brain development, she said, citing numerous studies. This can result in shortened attention spans, literacy and discipline problems, and a lack of motivation, she said.

She will also explain the benefits of other activities. For example, watching television is essentially the same activity, no matter which show is on. But other activities, such as drawing, playing with clay or just taking a walk, can help children’s brains develop more effectively by exercising different parts of the brain, she said.

DeGaetano said she seeks to educate parents about the impacts of the mass media on their child’s brain.

For example, for younger children, some of the images may not make sense, and the confusion can lead to problems.

“There are some things that kids can’t process,” she said.

DeGaetano will not simply lecture about what parents should do, said Sharon Soldenwagner, one of the program coordinators. The free program, to be held at Mary, Queen of Peace in Sammamish will be hosted by St. Joseph’s School, based in Issaquah and Snoqualmie.

Soldenwagner, whose children attend St. Joseph’s and who lives on the plateau, works for DeGaetano’s company. Soldenwagner said that although the program is being sponsored by a Catholic school and held at a church, it would be nondenominational.

Instead, DeGaetano will simply present information to allow parents to make better-informed decisions.

“It’s not a ‘never turn them on, don’t use them,’” Soldenwagner said regarding screens. “She’s not going to tell everybody what they have to do.”

DeGaetano, who worked in the Issaquah School District in the 1980s, said she will show parents how to encourage children to become media savvy and help parents teach their children about advertising, for example, something she said is a symptom of an industry-driven culture that strives to make people want things.

DeGaetano will help parents take control of those messages.

“Who is really in charge?” she asked. “Who is really socializing our children?”

She will explain how children perceive the information and the possible consequences of it, and let parents decide if they are comfortable with the risk.

And the presentation, which will likely include an opportunity for attendees to ask questions, will also provide people with practical tools.

“They’re actually going to get ideas they can go home and start implementing,” Soldenwagner said.

Reach Reporter Ari Cetron at 392-6434, ext. 233, or samrev@isspress.com.

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