Take Control of Your Screen Time This Summer With Your Family Media Plan

The message was clear to new parents a couple of years ago: screens are mostly not child-friendly, so stay away. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommended that children not experienced anyany screen time, until at least the age of two, and then after that, they offered to keep it very limited.

But as media becomes more and more prevalent in our daily lives, parents need to be more realistic about the limitations they can – and should – place on their kids’ screen time. In recent years, the AAP has softened its guidelines somewhat and developed the Family Media Plan tool to help parents talk to their children about how, when, and why certain restrictions should be imposed.

Especially now that summer has come – a time of unstructured freedom, where you see kids being sucked into the Netflix maelstrom only to show up when lunch is ready. Parents and children should work together on the plan, discussing (and agreeing on) various points, including:

  • Zones and time without a screen. Families choose which areas of the home, such as the kitchen table or bedroom, are designated as screen-free zones. Likewise, at what time of the day, such as before going to bed or while eating, the screen will not be displayed. They can also negotiate a “device curfew” when all devices are turned off overnight, as well as where they will be charged.
  • Choice and use of media. The fact that it is flagged as “educational” does not necessarily make it that way. AAP recommends using sites like Common Sense Media for quality and age-appropriate reviews. Children are encouraged to “diversify” the types of media they use to gain different benefits. In this section, parents and children can discuss the importance of not visiting new websites or downloading new applications without permission, using age-appropriate media, and playing games or watching shows with the whole family.
  • Balancing time online and offline. Screen time becomes more problematic when it supplants physical activity and personal social interaction in the world. In this section, children and parents can discuss which activities will take priority over the use of multimedia. These priorities may include joining a club, playing team sports, reading, playing outdoors, board games, and developing new hobbies.
  • Media manners and digital citizenship . Media manners refer to how you will use media in the company of others (for example, not writing text messages when someone is talking to you). Digital citizenship, meanwhile, is about how you will behave – and how you will react to the behavior of others – in the digital world. This is a time when parents can talk to their children about cyberbullying, the importance of respecting the privacy of others, and what to do if they receive a message or photo that makes them feel uncomfortable.
  • Digital security . Leaving perhaps the most important thing for last, in this section families can talk about why meeting, chatting, or playing with strangers online can be dangerous, and the importance of not sharing personal information.

After creating a media plan, you can print it and place it in a central place in your home. It can also be saved electronically so that you can edit it from time to time as your family’s needs change.


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