This past fall, The AAP (American Academy of Pediatrics) modified their position on screen time. The group has realized electronic media comes in all shapes and sizes. They also acknowledged that the reality is most children are first exposed to electronic media while they are still in infancy. So, instead of just out talking about amounts of screen time it’s time shift our thinking and think about Media Diet.
There are 5 components for us to think about regarding our families’ media diet?
- Balance – in today’s age some form of screen time is virtually inevitable. Especially once a child reaches elementary school age. Schools use technology for all sorts of activities. So, as families we need to evaluate the balance between three elements:
- Passive screen time – watching TV, movies
- Active – using technology for appropriate games, learning, reading, writing, drawing, etc.
- Unplugged activities – sports, outside play, reading and coloring using paper
All of us, not only children should maintain a healthy balance between these three items. It is really easy to be plugged in all the time.
- Role Modeling –I’m busy so I know for myself, everything is on my devices –calendar, watch phone, text, notes, books, banking you name it’s on there. However, if we want our children to unplug, we need to follow suit. They can’t tell the difference between us playing a game or reading email. So, we need to set some unplugged times for ourselves. P.S.A. — I’m going to get on my soapbox for a moment, please don’t use your phone while driving. All the lessons in the world about not texting and driving are meaningless if a child has spent 16-years observing his/her parent doing this behavior. We really are their first and most important teachers.
- Clear Boundaries – Set clear boundaries. No electronics during meal times, during short errands, in the grocery store, etc.. You have to decide as a family what media times are going to be available to your children. It’s no different then snacking while your cooking dinner, in some cases that maybe o.k., in others it means dinner is ruined. Also, consider no technology in the bedroom. Research shows, screen time within 20 – 30 minutes of going to bed does affect the bodies ability to sleep. It’s recommended to build in a tech free transition time to sleep.
- Engage – Not all screen time is created equal. If you are engaging with your child over technology playing tic-tac-to, watching them play a favorite game and asking questions, watching a show together, etc. makes technology a joint, social activity.
- Check ratings of Apps, TV, Movies, etc — We all know marketers love to target children. Often things are rated educational or linked to a super hero to boost sales. You want to choose age appropriate and high quality media. If you are not familiar with Common Sense Media (www.commonsensmedia.org) it’s a great place to start.
If we help our children manage their media diets while they are young, by the time they become teenagers they will have developed healthy, safe media habits.