Children and the Media

by: Daniel Wood, PA-C

Juliette is an 8-year-old girl who is in your office for a well-child exam.  Her mother is concerned about the dangers of the internet and the media and asks what websites you recommend and what media tips you use with your own children.

Today’s children are growing up as “digital natives,” and as parents we need to guide them to learn healthy concepts of digital use and citizenship. In partnership with their schools, parents play an important role in teaching these skills.

I typically recommend two websites to parents: the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), which has great tip sheets and helpful information to guide parents, and Common Sense Media, which contains helpful information on games, videos and movies and has a great explanation about the dangers of new games.

In addition, I use the following strategies – which are adapted from the AAP media tips sheet – in my home when managing my children and their use of media.

  1. Create a family media use plan. Media consumption needs to fit within your family’s values and parenting styles. When media is used thoughtfully and appropriately, it can enhance daily life. However, when used inappropriately, media can displace many important activities such as face-to-face interaction, family-time, outdoor-play, exercise, unplugged downtime and sleep. Parents can make their own plan at org.
  2. Set limits and encourage playtime.  Media can be huge distraction for children and consume their attention. Like most activities, parents should set negotiated limits with the understanding that offline interaction with children stimulates creativity. Parents should try to take 15 minutes a day to play and interact with their child.
  3. Screen time shouldn’t always be alone time.  I encourage parents to co-view, co-play and co-engage with their children when they are using screens. Besides monitoring what they’re watching, it shows interest in their child’s activities and experiences.
  4. Be a good role model. Teach and model kindness and good manners online. Because children are great mimics, parents should limit their own media use. Remind parents that they’ll be more connected with their children if they’re interacting, hugging and playing with them rather than staring at a screen.

Many parents tell me they don’t know where to start when it comes to reining in their child’s internet and screen usage. I’ve found that these four steps don’t overwhelm parents and are a great starting point for teaching – and modeling – healthy digital citizenship.

Resources:

You can see Daniel Wood, PA-C speak at the GAPA 2019 Summer Conference in Hilton Head Island, SC.

 

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