Monitor your child’s activities

Children are more likely to experiment with dangerous substances if they spend a lot of their time unsupervised. When your child goes to a friend’s house, make sure you know who’s house they’ll be at, whether the parent’s are home (not just an older brother or sister) and what they’ll be doing.

Knowing Where They Are and Who They're With

If you monitor your child’s activities, he is much less likely to use alcohol, tobacco or other drugs. Studies have found that kids who are home alone two or more days per week are four times more likely to get drunk than those who had parental supervision five or more times a week.

These steps will help you provide adequate monitoring of your child’s activities:

  • Establish relationships with your child’s friends. Children are more likely to experiment with drugs if their friends do and if they spend a lot of unsupervised time together. Knowing his friends can put you in closer touch with your child’s daily life. Also, when parental monitoring is high, kids are much less likely to choose friends who use drugs.
  • Get to know other parents. Arrange to attend school events or other gatherings with parents. As parents, you can reinforce each other’s efforts and provide a valuable support network for both you and your children.
  • Ask lots of questions. If your child is going out, make sure you know where she’s going, who she’ll be with and what she’ll be doing. Ask for phone numbers and addresses of friends’ houses. Let her know that you may call or drop by to check up on her and don’t be afraid to do just that. Start this practice early, when she first starts to visit friends’ houses, then it will be habit rather than practice when she reaches her teens.
  • Have your child check in at regular times. When he’s at a friend’s house have him check in occasionally. Make sure he has your phone number(s) and knows where you’ll be and how to reach you.
  • Make sure your child has access to enjoyable, safe, structured activities. Youth who are involved in constructive, supervised activities after school and on weekends are much less likely to use drugs. Encourage your child to get involved in activities such as soccer leagues, helping with school plays or volunteering at community organizations.

Talking to Kids about the Media

Worried about how much television your kids watch?  Many parents are.  And it’s even more overwhelming when you consider the amount of material that is on programs and movies that is simply not age appropriate.  Television programs and movies are filled with violence, alcohol, and drug use.

As a parent, how do you talk to your kids about how the media portrays these serious issues?  It is a hard topic to bring up, especially when our society is so caught up in pop culture.  However, it is important to talk to your kids about what they see on television and at the movies.  And it’s equally important to point out that it’s not a clear representation of reality.

One of the biggest things that parents need to keep in mind when their child wants to watch a certain program or movie that’s inappropriate, is that it’s okay to say “No”.  Although you might think it is a challenge to find age appropriate programs, they do exist.  Encourage your kids to watch programs with characters who are good role models and who handle conflicts well.  The media can play a positive role on kids too, if you find the appropriate shows.

If your child is watching a program and something that is inappropriate comes on, it is important that you talk to you child about what happened.  Ask them what would have happened if the same situation had occurred in the “real world.”  What would the consequences have been? What would have happened to the character?  Would others have been affected?  These are good questions to ask because many times kids can forget that television and movies are not reality.  Be sure that you put what happened into the appropriate context so that your child understands the situation and what really would have happened.

It is also important for parents to take advantage of teachable moments when they happen.  For example, if you are watching TV with your 8-year-old and marijuana is mentioned on a program, you might ask, “Do you know what marijuana is?  It’s a bad drug that can hurt your body.”  If your child has more questions, answer them.  If not, let it go.  Short, simple comments said and repeated often will get the message across.  On the other hand, if you have an older child you should offer the same message, but add more specific information.  For example, you might explain to your 12-year-old what marijuana and crack look like, their street names, and how they can affect her body.

You should also be aware of the content that is contained in the video games that children play.  Often, children play games that are not appropriate for their age.  Be sure that you look into the game that your child is playing or one that they want to purchase. 

A good source of information is www.parentstv.org.  This site offers information about movies, TV shows and video games, giving each a grade based on sex, language, and violence, as well as an overall rating. 

Finally, remember that your children will model your behavior.  If they see you spending hours in front of the television, they are more likely to do the same.  But if they see you reading, writing, or playing games, they will get the message that these activities are important too.