This month I found CommonSenseMedia.org is a very sensible site that answers parents’ questions about media use.
I will highlight some topics I found particularly appropriate for young children. There are many more questions answered on the site. I encourage you to look at the section that explores questions about screen time by age: https://www.commonsensemedia.org/screen-time/age/all
How much should my kids be using devices when they’re young?
Despite the great learning content within so much of kids’ media, it can’t completely substitute for learning that happens from hands-on, interactive engagement away from a screen. Try to find a balance between media and non-media activities so your kids can explore and learn from the world around them both on and away from the screen.
Is watching TV really bad for kids?
It depends on how much and what kind of TV. There are certainly plenty of wonderful TV shows for kids of all ages — and if you’re choosing high-quality, age-appropriate programs, minimizing exposure to advertising, and making sure kids have plenty of active and social time, you shouldn’t feel guilty about letting them watch some TV.
Here are the key things to consider when it comes to kids and TV:
- Background TV. A constantly running TV can interfere with parent-child interactions, which kids need for healthy development
- Bedroom TV. A kid with a TV in the bedroom watches a lot more TV and is exposed to more age-inappropriate content than a kid who doesn’t have a TV in his or her bedroom.
- Parents who watch a lot of TV. Kids pick up their parents’ habits – and end up watching more adult shows.
- Commercials. Kids under 7 can’t distinguish between make-believe and reality, which makes them especially vulnerable to advertising.
- Age-inappropriate content. Overexposure to images of violence, sex, and alcohol and to harsh language not only can influence kids’ behavior; it also can have a long-lasting emotional impact.
Are there any helpful tips for turning off the TV without causing a meltdown?
- Have a plan. Explain beforehand to your kid that he or she can watch a certain number of shows or for a specific time period. Let them know what to expect after the show, too.
- Create a routine. Kids who know they have to turn off the TV before a specific activity (like dinner) can sometimes transition more easily.
- Show your kids how to turn off the TV. They may enjoy practicing that skill, and it will give them some power over their situation, which they’ll appreciate.
- Avoid back-to-back shows. If you’re using a streaming service, disable the setting that automatically plays the next show in a series.
- Try giving a two-minute warning. Prepping kids for the inevitable works for some.
- Turn it off and stick to your guns. Some kids react better when they’re not warned in advance that the show is ending — possibly because they’ve come to expect the fight.
Is it OK to let my kid play Minecraft for hours?
An open-ended building game with seemingly endless possibilities, Minecraft can be mighty engrossing. On the plus side, Minecraft can reinforce geometry concepts as it strengthens players’ thinking and reasoning skills, creativity, and even collaboration. The game has a strong, positive online community and even has an educational module teachers can modify for classroom lessons on different subjects. On the downside, as you’ve discovered, it’s a time suck.
Even “good” games can be played to excess, and homework, chores, family obligations, and real-world social activities can take a backseat when kids can’t — or won’t — stop playing. And even if your kid is learning from the game, other areas of life are important, too.
Help your kids self-regulate. Start by having a conversation about all their daily duties and figure out how much game time fits in. Create a calendar, have them set a timer, and reward them for sticking to the time limits. If you’ve tried this and want more control over their screen time, consider installing a parental-control program that lets you set daily screen limits for different programs.
Some other topics you might find interesting:
The good news is that, as parents, we can make a choice to consistently expose our kids to media that reflects our own personal values and say “no” to the stuff that doesn’t. There are so many great benefits to media and technology, including the potential to teach valuable skills. Doing research about TV shows, movies, or games before your kids watch, play, and interact with them will go a long way in helping them avoid the bad stuff.
There is much more on the site under the Parent Concerns tab. Please take time to explore for answers to your questions.