We all told small lies from time to time when we went to the doctor. Who takes daily vitamin C every day? Who is exercising at a moderate pace for a full 150 minutes each week? Families seem to be approaching media diets in the same way. Although pediatricians constantly recommend restricting screen use, the “Common Sense Census: Media Use by Kids Age Zero to Eight 2017” study revealed that families with young children bought mobile devices, used them before bedtime, and posted tons of videos. On the other hand, many parents feel that their children’s media use is fairly reasonable and – in general – good for their children. So what happens when facts don’t match the recommendations? It’s time to set new rules.
We’re not talking about irregularity, we’re just talking about setting different rules. In your opinion, it may not be a problem for now, but research shows that media use increases as children get older. There are also risks of overexposure to the media.
Changing your approach to screen management before ages 8-12 and puberty will increase the likelihood that what they interact with will be (mostly) beneficial to them. This will also allow you to think more deeply about how, when and why you want your family to use technology, improving and enriching your lives.
Interestingly, according to the results of the above research, despite all the new things children are doing, their daily screen time has not changed much in six years. This is good news because you only need to choose quality media and technology to make screen time useful as long as you have basic limitations. Media use is beneficial for their children’s learning and creativity, many parents report. To increase these benefits according to the new rules watching together and playing together (instead of yelling at your child to turn off the computer).
Some parents ask why it is necessary to restrict the media. The best thing for young children’s bodies and minds is to talk, play, be bored and do things. Nothing can replace them. Especially at an early age, which is the most critical time in a child’s life … After all, the person you will account for is not your doctor, but your child. Media and technology are very important parts of their lives and this will continue to be so. Take steps now to keep everyone healthy and create a balanced approach.
When your kids want to see, play or download something, don’t just trust, stay on track. Most of the age recommendations on media products are an estimate of the producer, and that doesn’t mean they will be appropriate for your child’s age and stage of development. Read product reviews from independent sources (for example, in the US there is an organization called Common Sense Media that serves this purpose). If you don’t feel comfortable, say “no”. When you approve, help your child to enjoy it with other activities.
Children really need sleep. The screens in the bedroom – especially in the hour before bedtime – interfere with the process of relaxation, getting ready for rest and getting up refreshed and starting the day. If you can’t turn the bedroom into a no-screen space (this is the best solution, but it’s not always possible), turn off the TV at least an hour before bedtime, put tablets and phones in night mode, and turn off notifications. Also, consider using Guided Access or another setting of the device to keep phones / tablets locked in the music or alarm clock app.
Many parents leave TV on as an element of distraction. On the other hand, according to research, TV running in the background prevents parents from speaking and interacting with their children – key elements for children to learn language and communication. Working in the background, TV can also expose children to broadcasts that are not suitable for their age. Look for other ways of entertainment such as music, children’s podcasts or audiobooks that you can listen to with your child.
Reading is one of the best things you can do for your kids. It helps to strengthen the bond between you and also creates the foundation for learning. While it’s nice to have a small library at home, you can read anything you have. This will be good for children. Product labels, signs, packaging, anything with letters on it works. If you are raising your child in a place where you do not know the language completely, do not hesitate to read books or articles in your native language. You can also make up stories. What children need to hear is rhythm, sounds, and communication.
When your kids are young, create a family media plan to balance media and technology (theirs and yours) with everything else that matters to you. This is not only for them but also for you. When devices are off, school choir, homework, playing outside, reading, meals, etc. Plan. Then determine how much extra time is left for TV shows, games, apps, and other media events. Don’t bother with calculating screen time per minute for the day, just aim for balance throughout the week. Create times and places without a screen. You also follow them. Children learn more from what we do, not from what we say, so make sure you are a role model for the right behavior.