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Urgent support needed for parents to navigate kids media maze

It’s time to fund media management tools for parents, reports Barbara Biggins OAM, CEO Australian Council on Children and the Media (ACCM)

Federal governments have for some years, put considerable funds into internet safety education and prevention of cyber bullying. The eSafety Commissioner’s Office has been well funded to undertake this role and a new draft online safety charter has recently been released for public comment. That’s commendable but it’s nowhere near what’s needed to support parents in today’s increasingly complex media environment.

Parents are expected to be able to help their children navigate their way through the media maze to find age-appropriate, enjoyable and healthy media content, with few resources but much blame if they fail in the task.

Support for parents, provided in the early years of their children’s lives, could do much to prevent later harms from years of dependence on screens for entertainment, and from unsafe use of the internet. We know that healthy use patterns developed in the early years of children’s lives can give them a better chance of meeting their developmental milestones. This aim should underpin government policies in this field.

For too long, it has been left to community organisations like the Australian Council on Children and the Media (ACCM), professional associations such as Early Childhood Australia, and private parent educators, to provide what support they can from their own resources, or from a fee for service. That’s not good enough and leaves parents vulnerable to over-stated stories about media impacts in the media. This is why, while grants hold out, ACCM continues to offer its review services Know Before You Go, and Know Before You Load to help parents find age-appropriate movies and apps for their children. It is also why, in May (Highgate, SA) and in June (Sydney, NSW) this year, ACCM is hosting a seminar for parents and a conference for professionals and policy makers

Research-based parent support should be accessible and free, and professionals, producers and policy makers need to understand the issues at stake and act to support healthy child development.

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