Popular culture: 5 ways you can direct its influence on your kids


Internet, social media, television, radio, films – our society is steeped in media.  

According to a 2015 US study, conducted by PricewaterhouseCoopers, teens and children under 18 spend an average of 15.5 hours per week consuming media.  

In 2014, Parent24 conducted our own survey — the Kid's Nation Survey — and found that 23% of South African tykes own either a cellphone or tablet.

Essentially, our kids are taking in massive amounts of popular culture, and if the medium is the message, what are our kids learning from their daily intake?

Focused on the physical

A quick look through Instagram, and you wouldn’t be hard pressed to pick up a vast difference in how stylised and sexualised our kids have become. 

This emphasis on looks is by no means exclusive to the 21st century, but the immense popularity of image-centric social media networks, along with the influence of reality stars —who have built careers based solely on appearance — could be contributing factors to this disturbing reality.

Materialism and lapsed work ethic 

Music videos have long been blamed for the glorification of things. 

Research has found that teens between the ages of 12 and 15 watch music videos “an average of 4.3 days per week.” 

Another study — which tracked three generations of American students from 1966 –2009 — revealed that 62% of Millennials believed being wealthy was very important, while 39% said hard work was not part of their future plans. 


The internet has made access to the world of stuff simpler than ever – making it seem all too easy to get what you want, and get it now.

Advertising targeted at children has increased tremendously, often preaching false privilege, convincing kids that nothing should get in the way of what they want.

In a 2010 South African study, 24 minutes of advertising was found to be targeted at children every day.  

Sass and Crass

We’ve all seen the cute viral videos of children mouthing off to parents, but have manners and respect have been replaced by sarcasm and backchat?

It’s not uncommon to see children’s television shows featuring bold and independent characters, fearlessly facing off with authoritative figures.

With the amount of television they’re watching, can we blame these shows for these bratty attitudes? 

Is it all bad? 

Yet, with so many beneficial educational videos, online resources and apps, to say that all media is negative would be false. The challenge is discerning between what is good and what is bad. 

Like all parents, our resident blogger and mother, Cath Jenkins, knows this struggle all too well, "with the likes of Nicki Minaj’s buttbouncing ways seemingly dominating airwaves nowadays, there’s just some music and video content I'm not cool with...

"...in a world that grants us such easy access to content, whether its appropriate or not, how do parents...draw the line?"

Read the rest of her story here: Popping the Tunes (and turning some off)

What can parents do?

Here are a few ideas:

1. Limit screen time and encourage social interaction

With younger kids, engaging  one-on-one through fun activities or reading, could be ideal for communicating the kinds of values you want them to embrace.

When you're pressed for time, promote free play rather than playtime with a device.

For the older ones, suggest that they put away the screens when interacting with friends and during family time. 

2. Source content suitable for their age

Make use of parental control settings and ratings to guide your choices. 

For children under 7 particularly, find media that features proper role models and zero stereotyping, specifically around race and gender. 

3. Identify bad content

When watching popular shows, surfing the internet or listening to music, highlight positive and negative examples of words and attitudes you approve and disapprove of.

Have regular family discussions about values and invite their opinions.

Prepare them for when they encounter negative media outside your home e.g. scary/inappropriate content, giving them pointers on what to do if/when they are exposed e.g. leaving the room if they feel uncomfortable. 

4. Teach them that difference is not a bad thing

Inspire them to respect the differences between cultures, races and religions. Expose them to media that is inclusive of diverse groups of people. 

5. Do not reject their interests 

Ensure that innocent teasing on your part is not misinterpreted as belittling their interests, this closes the door to open discussion and, most importantly, your input. 

Read More:

Are you concerned about the amount of media your child consumes on a daily basis? Share your thoughts and experiences with us on chatback@parent24.com and we may publish them. 

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