Welcome to November; it’s cold and dark early in the day. While there is really no such thing as bad weather, only the wrong clothes, and we’d all benefit from spending a bit more time outside, the unfortunate reality is that many of us hibernate inside for much of the fall and winter. Along with this, we may also find ourselves filling more of our time with screens. While technology enhances our lives by connecting us with family, friends and information from around the world, it is also a worthy idea to set boundaries on its use. But technology is so deeply ingrained with most of our daily lives, do we really know just how much time we spend on screens. How do we know what is too much? How do we evaluate the content of what our children are viewing aside from general rating systems? Do we have to preview everything our kids watch and play?
Fortunately there are numerous resources available to help parents understand how to be media savvy and to help their children develop the same skills. A helpful place to start is understanding how much screen time children should have in their daily schedule. The American Academy of Pediatrics has developmental recommendations for media use by school-age children and adolescents and media use in children under age 5. Along with these general guidelines, you can make use of an online family media use planner, which can help structure screen time within the other requirements of the day including making sure there is adequate time for the appropriate amount of sleep based upon your child’s age and screen free activities. For those with school-aged children and adolescents who may be unsupervised more often, a media use contract can be a handy tool to set guidelines around what content is viewed, how much time is spent with screen based media, and to establish other general guidelines for good digital citizenship. When it comes to content, the IMDB Parents Guide and Common Sense Media are great resources to evaluate the themes presented in various media forms (books included on Common Sense Media).
Article written by MCS parent, Dr. Melissa DeVries, P.h.D.