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Children and Media


Welcome: “Meet the Press!”
Editorial: “Play Station Education?”
Feature: “Make bad news better – 5 easy steps!”
Teacher/Parent Book Pick: – “Measure of Our Success”
K-3 Book Pick: “The Giving Tree”
4-6 Book Pick: “Holes”
Web Discoveries: TV, Radio & Reporters on the Web
Words of Wisdom: “All the news (quotes) fit to print”


WELCOME: “Meet the Press!”


The truth is, the press comes to meet *us*, 24 hours a day. Media permeates our lives with news, entertainment, opinions, ideas and information like never before. The goal of this newsletter is to get the media to help us teach our children.

In the early 60’s, seeing a handful of TV shows a week was a special treat (especially those blissful few hours of Saturday morning cartoons)! As for actual movies, theater visits were far more special and even less frequent. How things have changed!television Children and Media

Today, kids gobble feature length films like popcorn! Cable TV, satellite TV, DVDs, YouTube videos, computer games, magazines and news outlets have exploded, creating thousands of new media options. The Internet was the final ingredient; it puts an *infinite* number of information and media sources right on your desk.

The result is a new media generation that is more worldly, more informed (alas, sometimes mis-informed) and more “plugged in” to the electronic pulse of the planet than any living person could have been in any previous era.

Your children have access to an unlimited amount of information.

As teachers, parents and mentors, one of our biggest challenges is helping our children to process that information effectively.

With best regards,

Kent Davis

EDITORIAL: “Play Station Education?”

Does your elementary school have too much money for essential books, teachers and activities? That’s not my experience.

So I had to wonder when I read a front-page feature in the Philadelphia Inquirer on March 24. The article described a Department of Education program subsidizing video game stations for individual students in 2,000 schools across the country.

I don’t question the use of new technology. We use multi-media robots to capture children’s attention and deliver life skills lessons effectively. What I’m questioning is the cost of this program. Could these districts spend this money more effectively with a little extra effort and creativity?

Then I remembered that news media is interactive! It isn’t just something to read or watch passively. If you have an opinion, you can share it with your community. My letter to the editor appears below ). I hope you find it interesting and I hope you’ll share your opinions with your local news outlets, too.

Re: Students and Video Games
Published in the Philadelphia Inquirer -April 7th

“Your March 24th front page featured a video game purchase program for students. Educators apparently love the idea so much that they’re spending huge amounts of money to possibly help a small number of students.

“The story cites cost/user statistics for one district. With “the hope of improving test scores,” they are spending $1.8 million to give 1,650 students a Sony Play Station at home. That’s about $1,100 per student. This is the tip of the spending iceberg as more than 2,000 schools plan to participate. What’s wrong with this picture?

“For 15 years, I’ve worked with educational agencies promoting “life skills” education for children. Life skills activities teach children positive social skills, healthy behaviors and logical decision making. Scientific studies show that life skills improve children’s lives in many ways, specifically meeting some of the key objectives described for the Play Station project.

“For comparison, let’s look at one validated life skills program called MDM. MDM includes live training assemblies for students, teachers and parents; detailed lesson plans for teachers; worksheets promoting student/parents learning; and on-going program updates.

“Implementing this complete program costs about $2 per student. In this example (and there are plenty more) $1.8 million dollars would fund proven educational services for 900,000 children, including learning resources for their teachers and parents.

“This sounds like a better value than 1,650 Play Stations to me. But maybe there’s a “New Economy” in education, too. Perhaps we should spend millions of dollars on educational “hope” just because a flashy computer technology is involved.

“My experience is that effective education can be inexpensive, easy to use and fun, even without Crash Bandicoot. I hope you will continue your investigative coverage of this topic.”

Kent Davis
Content Director –


FEATURE: “Make “bad news” better – 5 easy steps!”


Are you happy with the amount of violence in movies,
video games and TV?

OK, that’s a trick question. Sadly, it’s often the case that the only places with more shocking content are our newspapers and TV news shows!

This article shows you how to use the news, even “bad news”, to teach positive lessons to your children.

Our children were born into the most informed generation that ever lived. They are constantly exposed to current events through TV, radio, movies, magazines, books, music, video games and surfing the Internet. Some things they see will be good and some will be truly disturbing.

You cannot control everything your child sees or hears. In the same way, you can’t make all the drugs, guns or violence in the world disappear. But with life skills lessons, you can help your children deal with negative influences when they do encounter them. With the right tools, you can even turn them into a learning experience.

The interactive learning process is the key. No matter what your children see in the news, the way they process the information and apply it to their own lives determines the outcome. They do this by interacting with their teachers, parents, family and friends.

The people your children respect are the ones who shape the way they think. Is smoking a cigarette “disgusting”, “stupid”, “unhealthy” or “cool”? Your children will decide based on people (or media!) around them that encourage or discourage this behavior.

scale good evil Children and Media Is it good to help a friend? Is it OK to bring a gun to school? Can an adult help if you have a problem? Is it bad to hurt other people? Is it wrong to steal? Why?


As children grow, teachers and parents have plenty of opportunities to discuss every topic and to help children form positive opinions. The only downside is that if *you* don’t help your children form opinions, someone else will.

You and your children see news every day that gives us an ideal chance to explore positive life skills lessons. It’s a natural to want to shield your children from some negative stories. But when a story commands national media attention, it is often better to confront the issues. If you don’t, your child will form opinions based on other sources of information. It’s far better for you as a teacher, parent or mentor to take control and use the news as a chance to help your child grow.

Here are the five easy steps to make this work:

1. Review our life skills learning objectives – There are only 20 of them to cover our general teaching goals for life skills education. Each one has a collection of discussion topics and activities to help your child grow. What lesson do you want to focus on today? You’ll find the complete list here:

2. Look for actions and consequences – This is one of the most important life skills concepts to impart to your children. Every action produces results. Good actions produce good results. Organized actions produce organized results. You child is ultimately responsible for his or her actions. Every news story is about someone doing something and what happened. Use our discussion topics to talk about the stories. What would your child do in that situation? Why? What may have happened differently?

newspaper Children and Media 3. Look for good news – Too often, the media focuses on negative stories. But there is good news out there, too! Sometimes, you will need to discuss negative stories with powerful lessons. But always include some positive stories about success and accomplishment to inspire your children.

4. Look for lessons – As you familiarize yourself with the life skills learning objectives, you’ll start to *see* lessons in news stories. Try picking just one objective as you read the paper each day.

5. Chat with your kids – Finally, the easy, fun part! Don’t worry about following strict rules or carefully planning your lessons. Just have your learning objecting and a few suggested discussion topics in mind and chat about them. Any discussion you have will help your children learn and grow.

Let’s look at a news story to see how this can work. It’s a rare child who didn’t see the photo of a menacing SWAT team member confronting Elian Gonzalez with a machine gun. There are plenty of life skills lessons behind that picture. This story could stimulate discussions on Self Awareness, Teamwork, Decision Making, Problem Solving, Conflict Resolution and other themes.

For this lesson, I decided to focus on the boy and ignore the adults. I picked the Grade 4-6 Interpersonal Skills lesson; “I see the special qualities in other people” as my theme for examining this story. This is one of the free sample lessons available for download from our website.

LEARNING OBJECTIVE: “I see the special qualities in other people.”

GOAL: This discussion will help your children understand similarities and differences among people, with a chance to explore ethnic diversity. I added some conversational content to show how to lead a discussion like this. The bulleted items below are discussion topics I adapted from our lesson. I added some example responses in case you need to help your child with ideas.

“Did you see the story about the little boy from Cuba?”

chabul2e Children and Media

How do you think his life is different from yours? (e.g. he speaks Spanish, far from where he was born, from Cuba, doesn’t have a Mom, eats different food, plays different games, doesn’t have a computer)

chabul2e Children and Media

As amazing as his story is, don’t all people have some things in common? (e.g. we all need food and water, we all live on Earth, we all breath air)

chabul2e Children and Media

OK, now what are some things that you and Elian may have in common? (e.g. both in elementary school, have friends, have family that care for us, like games)

chabul2e Children and Media

Review the news stories to find out about Elian, his classmates, his life in Cuba and his life in the US. What kinds of things does he like? What doesn’t he like? Do you share any of his likes and dislikes?

chabul2e Children and Media

If Elian could stay at your house for a few days, what would you like to teach him or show him? Why? (e.g. play a sport, cook a favorite meal, work on the computer)

chabul2e Children and Media

Do you know anyone from Cuba? Have you met people from other countries (or seen them on TV)?

chabul2e Children and Media

If you could meet someone from any country, which one would you pick? Why? What would you like to learn from them? What would you like to teach them?





Measureofsuccess Children and Media 111008 1851 kdcutandpas31 Children and Media “Measure of Our Success”

by Marian Wright Edelman


Previously, I recommended Marian Edelman’s book “Lanterns”. It is also a pleasure to suggest this work. Marian Edelman’s gift is her ability to take life experiences and draw profound lessons from them. She based this book on a letter of advice she wrote to her sons. In it, she outlines 25 clear steps for anyone to succeed in life. The author’s African American heritage is clear, but this is a book for readers of every age and ethnic background. It was a #1 New York Times bestseller. You’ll be pleased to add it to your #1 list, too.



givingtree Children and Media

111008 1851 kdcutandpas31 Children and Media

“The Giving Tree” by Shel Silverstein


A simple book. A powerful book. And a poignant book with a bittersweet story and ending. In a few simple pages, Shel Silverstein gives you an opportunity to explore the concept of giving (and taking) with children of all ages.



holes Children and Media 111008 1851 kdcutandpas31 Children and Media “Holes” by Louis Sacher

Do you remember the old comedy song “Hello Muddah, Hello Faddah”? It was about a boy sentenced to camp one summer. Well this story’s hero Stanley is in a similar situation! Except Camp Green Lake is a juvenile detention facility (with no lake, of course) where Stanley ends up through a case of mistaken identity. The warden’s rehabilitation philosophy is simple; “If you take a bad boy and make him dig a hole every day in the hot sun, it will turn him into a good boy.” Ah, but behind the scenes the warden has a secret motivation for having her inmates dig holes day after day. I’m always up for a humorous tale, but “Holes” offers great insights into what makes friendship work, with special attention to kids who are different from their friends. As Stanley resolves the mysteries, we join him in discovering his true destiny. Where can you have this much fun for less than $10?


WEB DISCOVERIES: for teachers, parents & kids


On the news media theme, here are three web links to try:


111008 1851 kdcutandpas42 Children and Media Ask A Reporter – New York Times

What a neat feature! This regular column invites students to ask reporters questions about their job. Many of the questions are from high school students but there are plenty from elementary age students, too. This is a great resource for teachers and parents preparing lessons about the media. NOTE: Be sure to visit the Previous Q&A link in the top right corner dozens of interviews.

111008 1851 kdcutandpas42 Children and Media TV Eyes

tv reporter Children and Media

TVeyes sends you an email alert the moment any keyword is spoken on TV! What a concept! Be sure to choose your keyword carefully so you don’t get too many results! Your notification includes the name of the show, the channel and a transcript to show your word in context. TVeyes is a great example of how TV and computers are merging together.


radio tower Children and Media

111008 1851 kdcutandpas42 Children and Media World radio on the Web

NOTE: Recommended for advanced computer users. You will need Windows Real Media Player and/or Real Media Player (both free programs).

Do you want to hear a radio broadcast from the Philippines? The latest news in Cambodia? It’s all live and on the web 24 hours a day. Don’t worry, there are plenty of programs in English and some are just music. You may have to hunt around a bit for reliable channels but when you do, a literal world of radio adventure is at your fingertips.



WORDS OF WISDOM: “All the news (quotes) fit to print”


Newspaper reporters, radio DJs and TV correspondents share their opinions with us every day. Well, plenty of folks have opinions about them, too. They’re not always kind (!) but they’re all entertaining. Here are some diverse perspectives on the news and the people who report it.



“Don’t be afraid to make a mistake,
your readers might like it.”

William Randolph Hearst, US newspaper publisher

“Editor: a person employed by a newspaper,
whose business it is to separate the wheat from the chaff,
and to see that the chaff is printed.”

Elbert Hubbard

“The man who reads nothing at all is better educated
than the man who reads nothing but newspapers.”

Thomas Jefferson

“I do not take a single newspaper, nor read one a month,
and I feel myself infinitely the happier for it.”

Thomas Jefferson

“There was a time when the reader of an unexciting newspaper would remark, ‘How dull is the world today!’
Nowadays he says, ‘What a dull newspaper!'”

Daniel Boorstin, The Image

“Oil prices have fallen lately.
We include this news for the benefit of gas stations,
which otherwise wouldn’t learn of it for six months.”

Bill Tammeus, Toronto’s National Newspaper

“Trying to determine what is going on in the world
by reading newspapers
is like trying to tell the time
by watching the second hand of a clock.”

Ben Hecht

“The conflict between the men who make and the men who report the news is as old as time. In the old days, the reporters or couriers of bad news were often put to the gallows; now they are given the Pulitzer Prize, but the conflict goes on.”
James Reston, US Journalist

“For most folks, no news is good news;
for the press, good news is not news.”

Gloria Borger

Posted in Media and Children. Tagged with , , .

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