—Each media form uses its own language. Newspapers make headlines large to attract readers to certain stories. Media with sound may use music to make people feel a range of emotions.
—No two people experience the same media message in exactly the same way. How a person interprets a message depends on factors unique to that person's life. These can include age, values, memories, and education.
The AAP also states that when children learn about these techniques, they are able to understand how a message is delivered — instead of only being affected by it. I realize that each of these radio stations has a particular demographic they are trying to reach, and they receive funds from their ads; I don't begrudge them that. But 4-year-old Benjamin will point out when he hears an ad for a place he recognizes (a local aquarium), and Jacob often stops drawing or reading to ask me what a song means as it's playing. So I know they're listening, even when they're involved in other activities.
As adults, we recognize these songs and ads for what they are, but our children don't — unless we discuss the topic with them, and keep the dialogue open. I brought up the radio issue with my husband to see if I was being overly sensitive, and he felt I was. However, a neighbor who is the father of a 12-year-old girl feels just as passionately about the topic as I do. He is so concerned, in fact, that he actually sat down with his daughter to discuss the 'American Idol' song with her, explaining that it sings praises about a crime, and that it is absolutely not a valid — or legal — way to handle heartbreak. I applauded his actions.
As I hear news reports about celebrities who drink and drive, abuse drugs and alcohol and family members, and enter rehab daily, I pity them, and in the back of my mind, I am thankful my world is so different from theirs. But the more mainstreamed and "normalized" such behaviors become, through ads for alcohol and rehab, and songs about anger and revenge, the more our children will think that it is OK to do such things because, even if their parents don't do them, the "rest of the world", it will seem, does.
As parents, we need to pay attention to what kind of "normal" is playing in the media as the backdrop to our children's lives (and how it relates to the one under our own roof). Then, we need to point out the discrepancies and get our kids thinking about behavior choices through regular conversations with them.
This will help them understand not only how we, as parents, feel about these behaviors, it will also help them understand they have choices. And surely that will make all the difference when they are inevitably faced with these choices in the real world.