One day my daughter is into webkinz, the next day it’s vchatting! Technology is moving so rapidly, research is always catching up to the latest kinds of digital media content and platforms that kids use. It’s almost impossible to keep up with our digital children and moreover, to know what kinds of rules to enforce surrounding their media use. But, there are a few cardinal guidelines that experts seem to agree on.
- Model what you preach. Perhaps the most important rule is to make sure you watch your own media consumption because your children learn more from what you do than what you say. In other words, no blackberry at the dinner table, unless you want texting friends during mealtimes to be a habit.
- Do not allow media in the bedroom. In the past, this was easier to enforce. Not everyone could afford an extra TV or computer for their children to use in their bedroom. But these days, with mobile phones, iPod touches and laptops, it’s easier than ever for kids to get media into their bedrooms. But if possible, this is one of the best ways to control your child’s media use. First, you can be aware of the content and websites they are using. Second, you can make sure they are sleeping and not texting. Kids want to communicate with their friends 24/7 — it’s part of being a teenager. In today’s age, it’s easier than ever for children to do this, but when it gets in the way of their sleep, it’s not healthy!
- Balance children’s media use with other activities. For every hour playing video games, make them spend the same amount of time playing outside or reading. Look, we all get obsessed with our screens but as adults, we hopefully are able to balance our activities with other interests. Digital media in and of itself is not bad, it’s when it becomes the only thing that kids enjoy, it becomes unhealthy.
Believe me, as simple as they seem, these rules are not always easy to enforce. But if do make them stick, you will be way ahead of most parents. And of course, if you break one of them every once in a while (like I do!), don’t beat yourself up. The fact that you are even trying means you care about helping your children learn healthy media habits … and that is the most important thing!