Parents are becoming increasingly concerned about the impact that media has on their kids’ lives. Children of all ages, even younger children, are spending considerable time surfing the internet, texting, talking on cell phones and playing video games, often simultaneously. This habit of simultaneously engaging in multiple media activities has become known as media multitasking, with even older grade school kids becoming experts at it. With new media being introduced virtually every day, parents might feel overwhelmed as they try to protect their kids from media overload. However the news is not all bad.
Studies show that kids whose parents make an effort to curb media use with time limits or by limiting access itself are effective. In fact, far from harming your kids, though they will say otherwise, there appear to be significant benefits to reducing your kid’s media time. As a parent, if you have implemented limits on technology access and use, you have probably already fought this fight with your children and they have whined and tried to get you to change your mind. However, standing firm against the rising media tide and managing your family’s media use, instead of allowing it to manage you, really does make a difference in your kids’ lives. While it is may not be easy to pry your kids away from the computer, their game or even their cell phone, you can do it with a little advanced planning.
Here are 5 ways to avoid media overload:
1. Establish good habits early – Establishing boundaries is crucial as experts advise parents to start restricting access to media when kids are young. Turn the phone, and instant messaging, or IMing, off during homework and keep an eye on the clock. One of the secret to healthy media use is to establish time limits and make sure that your family sticks to them.
2. Use media together – This is not an all or nothing proposition as media has a valuable place in our lives. Whenever you can, watch, play, listen and even surf the internet with your kids. It is especially important to talk about what they see, hear, and read with older kids. You need to talk about the content and stay engaged with what your kids are doing online and with mobile media as well. It is important that you share your values with your kids and help them connect what they learn in the media to events and activities in which they are involved. This can help to broaden their understanding of the world.
3. Walk the walk – Your kids pay much more attention to what you do than to what you say. If you want your kids to be responsible media users, you need to be a responsible media user. It is crucial to set an example by using media the way you want them to use it. You need to keep mobile devices away from the dinner table, turn the TV off when it is not actively being watched, and use a DVR to record shows that may be inappropriate for your kids so you can watch them at a later time when your kids are not around.
4. Keep distractions to a minimum – Encourage your kids to do one thing at a time and teach them to focus. Do not let them fall into the trap of multitasking. For older kids, make sure that social networking and chatting happen after homework is complete, or for limited periods of time.
5. Work to maintain a balance – Digital media is not going away and it’s your job as a parent to help your kids maintain balance in their lives. Help your kids develop responsible media habits, and good digital citizenship, so they can pursue their interests with media savvy.