3 Essential Steps to Helping Your Family Become Sensible Digital Users

by Paula Drew, WECA Conference Team and Former Executive Director at Discovery Center

Phone appsA while back I was reading a news article about media usage and young children. It referenced a report by Common Sense Media titled, The Common Sense Census: Plugged-In Parents of Tweens and Teens 2016. This report covered all sorts of media stats like the astronomical amount of time children spend in front of screens but largely, it highlighted children’s most important role models, their parents. In one section, kids talked about how they thought parents were doing with moderating their own media usage. Essentially, what the kids said is that their parents were well, a bit hypocritical. 9 hours and 22 minutes is the average amount of time American parents spend on screens and the bulk of this time is focused on personal use [1]. Additionally, 78% of us parents think that we are good media role models for our children. So, if our kids are awake for at most 14 hours a day, how often are they competing with a screen for our attention?

Create a Family Media Use Plan

Sensible Digital Media Family

Becoming a good role model is the first step to helping your child become a responsible digital citizen.

We didn’t grow up with screens and so alongside our children, we’re learning our own capabilities and weaknesses when it comes to handling digital media responsibly. Recently, the American Academy of Pediatrics released a report guiding media use by age for children. It stated that excessive caregiver use of digital media can have adverse effects on a child’s development. They suggest that parents create a Family Media Use Plan to keep everyone accountable.[2]  Just as we make personal guidelines for weight management, household budgeting and weekly chores- we need to create steadfast ways to help curb our own media addictions in order to be fully present in our children’s lives.

Plans can include such things as:

  • Content Usage: How much time are we spending on social media, news, YouTube etc.
  • Present Time: When are screens off-limits?
  • Value and Values: How is media content adding positively to our understanding of the world and does it reflect your families core values?
  • Find Your Family: What areas of the house are off-limits for screen use?
  • Stop Watch: What is the max amount of time you’re ok with giving to screen use?[3]

Become a Good Role Model
Being a good role model is the first step to helping your child become a responsible digital citizen. However, that’s not all we parents need to know and do in order to support our children in the 21st century. Let’s face it, this technology thing is not going away and our children are going to need to navigate digital platforms daily in their work and lives. How can we support the development of these skills and furthermore, how can digital media play a role in fostering other aspects of our child’s development?

Attend Lisa Guernsey’s Presentation this October
Lisa Guernsey, deputy director of the Education Policy program and director of the Learning Technologies project at New America and author of Screen Time: How Electronic Media – From Baby Videos to Educational Software – Affects Your Young Child and co-author of Tap, Click, Read: Growing Readers in a World of Screens will visit Madison this fall to kick-off the Wisconsin Early Childhood Association’s annual conference. On Thursday, October 25th, she will speak to parents and educators about her research, her recommendations and her own journey as a parent in the digital age. No one is perfect in the parenting arena but when we know better, we parent better. Lisa has made a career of knowing the hows and whys of media use with children and this event promises to help us all get a little closer to perfect when we’re thinking about parenting and digital media.

This community event is generously sponsored by UW Health, UnityPoint Health – Meriter & Quartz and is free and open to the public. Registration is now open.

Resources:

What Parents Can Do

Common Sense Media

How to Make a Family Media Use Plan


[1] The Common Sense Census: Plugged-In Parents of Tweens and Teens 2016 | Common Sense Media. (2016, December 06). Retrieved July 16, 2018, from https://www.commonsensemedia.org/research/the-common-sense-census-plugged-in-parents-of-tweens-and-teens-2016

[2] Council on Communications and Media. (2016, October) Media and Young Minds. Pediatrics.

[3] Korioth, T. (2018, June 20). Family Media Plan helps parents set boundaries for kids. Retrieved July 16, 2018, from http://www.aappublications.org/news/2016/10/21/MediaParents102116

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