Tuesday, July 21, 2015

9 Tips for Managing Children's Media Time

There are few parents that don't worry about the amount of time their children spend using media of one kind or another. Thirty years ago our major fear as parents was how much television our children watched. I can recall as a teacher surveying a class I was teaching and being horrified that the average TV time was 21 hours per week.

A decade later we added electronic gaming and videos to the list of worries. But in the last decade, we've seen an explosion of options as media of one kind or another, have become available 24/7 at our fingertips (literally).

Of course, right up front let me stress that I LOVE media, but we do need to control it, rather than having it control us and our children.

Why do we worry? 

  • First, worrying about the mind-numbing potential that untold hours using media might have on our children.
  • Second, worrying about the potential impact on health of the mind and body (being withdrawn, depression, anxiety, obesity....).
  • Third, our fears about the 'stranger danger' risks of social media.
  • Fourth, the loss of time to do other things that we see as important (school learning, family time, exercise, developing 'real' relationships not just virtual ones....).

What can we do?

1. Control our own devotion to media. Ask ourselves how much time we spend on varied media. Is our iPad or smart phone almost permanently in our hands? Do I retreat for hours to my computer to check emails, do work and isolate myself from family and friends?

2. Establish some basic rules in families and schools. How much time on the computer, iPad, TV, watching videos, gaming etc? Limits on specific categories? Rules about clashes with family activities? For example, none at the dinner table or at family events, none before homework, none until after they are fed at the end of the day and perhaps get some exercise? Sites that they cannot access? Shared computers in open 'public' spaces at home? [These rules need to reflect your family circumstances and children]

3. Be prepared to make younger children understand that age makes a difference. Your 8-year can't simply do everything that their 15-year old sister does. Age makes a difference to the rules. Explain why.

4. Take the time to understand the varied social media options that your children are using. You'll be surprised by some of them.
5. Understand that media is part of life and can enrich it enabling us to keep in touch, make new friends, communicate instantly, learn and so on.

6. Keep media out of bedrooms as much as is practical. We once would advise that we shouldn't buy a TV for every bedroom. This still applies but today hand held devices are a TV and more that we allow children to take everywhere. Establish some limits on access. For example, why not have all handheld devices placed in a box in the kitchen when they go to bed, or when lights go off?

Above: Children enjoying media together in shared family space

7. Try something radical if the above proves difficult. Perhaps have a timer on the family WiFi router so that noone gets a signal between specific hours. Have kid friendly filters that restrict children's access to specific sites.

8. Do educate them about the risks of social media as well as the benefits.

9. Above all, act as good role models. I know, I've said it twice because I think that this one is SO important. We set the example for our kids to follow.

Other helpful advice on parenting

New York Times Parenting Page (HERE)

All my posts on Media (HERE)

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