As we head into the busy holiday season with a myriad of things vying for our attention, it is not likely that a media use plan is part of the agenda. The truth remains, however, that during the hustle and bustle of festivities, as well as the down time students experience from the routine of school, media use often skyrockets. This may or may not appear to be a problem for many in our nation who see the various forms media use as a welcomed distraction for their loved ones.
The average teen spends up to 9 hours a day consuming some facet of media. (commonsencemedia.org) It is in our best interest to think through what that means for their development, time management, safety and well-being.
What is the next generation missing out on as they spend countless hours interacting with devices that mainly revolve around self-focused activities?
What are our children being exposed to?
According to a recent series that aired on ABC News: Good Morning America, called “Cracking The Kid Code,” children were able to get around many of the parental control settings that were placed on devices for their protection. For this experiment, students who were 9 to 13 years old were given devices that had parent controls placed on them. They were then asked to attempt to bypass the controls to get to a specific game. It didn’t take long until one student learned how to get around the parent controls and then proceeded to tell others exactly how it was done. By the way, it took less than 30 minutes…
So what’s the moral of the story? If a child really wants to view something, they can and will find a way. Subsequent to this is the reality that kids are also being exposed to explicit content that they may not be looking for initially but stumble upon through pop-ups and in their web searches.
What can we do?
As you and your family plan for the upcoming holiday season, have visions of vacation time away from the rigors school, and shop for that perfect tech device your child is begging for, set aside time to start a conversation. At the end of the day, it is good old-fashioned communication and open dialog that really makes the difference.
Here’s some advice from the American Academy of Pediatrics:
Develop, consistently follow, and routinely revisit a Family Media Use plan (see the plan from the American Academy of Pediatrics at www.HealthyChildren.org/MediaUsePlan).
- Address what type of and how much media are used and what media behaviors are appropriate for each child or teenager, and for parents. Place consistent limits on hours per day of media use as well as types of media used.
- Promote that children and adolescents get the recommended amount of daily physical activity (1 hour) and adequate sleep (8–12 hours, depending on age).
- Recommend that children not sleep with devices in their bedrooms, including TVs, computers, and smartphones. Avoid exposure to devices or screens for 1 hour before bedtime.
- Discourage entertainment media while doing homework.
- Designate media-free times together (eg, family dinner) and media-free locations (eg, bedrooms) in homes. Promote activities that are likely to facilitate development and health, including positive parenting activities, such as reading, teaching, talking, and playing together.
- Communicate guidelines to other caregivers, such as babysitters or grandparents, so that media rules are followed consistently.
- Engage in selecting and co-viewing media with your child, through which your child can use media to learn and be creative, and share these experiences with your family and your community.
- Have ongoing communication with children about online citizenship and safety, including treating others with respect online and offline, avoiding cyberbullying and sexting, being wary of online solicitation, and avoiding communications that can compromise personal privacy and safety.
- Actively develop a network of trusted adults (eg, aunts, uncles, coaches, etc) who can engage with children through social media and to whom children can turn when they encounter challenges.
If you would like more information regarding resources and the realities of media use upon the next-generation, visit our website: www.thenovusproject.org where you will find our free resource: Parents Guide to Kids and Media.