Papal Advice to Parents on Children's Use of Media

Foster a Critical Spirit in Youngsters, He Says

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VATICAN CITY, JAN. 25, 2004 ( John Paul II has advice for parents as they educate their children about the media: foster a critical spirit in the former and regulate the use of the latter.

The Pope proffers this advice in his Message for the 2004 World Communications Day, which will be observed May 23. The Vatican press office issued the message Saturday.

“Parents, as the primary and most important educators of their children, are also the first to teach them about the media,” the Holy Father writes in his message entitled, “The Media and the Family: A Risk and a Richness.”

“They are called to train their offspring in the moderate, critical, watchful, and prudent use of the media in the home. When parents do that consistently and well, family life is greatly enriched,” he adds.

“Even very young children can be taught important lessons about the media: that they are produced by people anxious to communicate messages; that these are often messages to do something — to buy a product, to engage in dubious behavior — that is not in the child’s best interests or in accord with moral truth,” the Pope states.

In a word, he contends that parents must explain to children that they “should not uncritically accept or imitate what they find in the media.”

With the second principle, the Pope reminds parents that they “need to regulate the use of the media at home.”

“This would include planning and scheduling media use, strictly limiting the time children devote to media, making entertainment a family experience, putting some media entirely off limits, and periodically excluding all of them for the sake of other family activities,” John Paul II writes.

He acknowledges that for these principles to be effective, parents must give “good example to their children by their own thoughtful and selective use of media.”

In this connection, the Pope suggests that it might be “helpful to join with other families to study and discuss the problems and opportunities presented by the use of the media.”

“Families,” he adds, “should be outspoken in telling producers, advertisers, and public authorities what they like and dislike.”

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