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Media Use By Children: Monitor and Model

We live in a time where exposure to all different types of technologies beyond TV, such as smartphones, computers, tablets, and all forms of social media, are an integral part, if not a dominant role in the lives of children and teenagers.

Families may not have rules in place to manage the use. Unrestricted media use has been linked with violence, cyberbullying, school woes, obesity, lack of sleep and a host of other problems. Many parents are not necessarily prepared to manage the media use of their children. Interestingly, the majority of youngsters are more likely to go online using a mobile device than a PC or laptop.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that parents create an actual “media use plan” for their households. A family media use plan should take into consideration the number of devices in the home, the type of media, time of use, curfews during bedtime and security. It is also suggested to keep all screen technology out of kids’ bedrooms and that phones should be out of bedrooms as well. It is recommended to limit the amount of screen time to less than 2 hours for children under the age of 2.

The worry exists that parents are not aware of their children’s media use and may not give management thereof enough focus, despite the fact that good media can offer a series of positive effects. According to the AAP, the following media use realities were reported:

• The average 8- to 10-year-old spends nearly eight hours a day with a variety of media; older children and teens spend more than 11 hours a day.
• The presence of a television set in a child’s bedroom increases TV viewing even more, and 71% of children and teens report having a TV in their bedroom; 50% have a console video game player in their room.
• Nearly all children and teens (84%) are on-line; about 75% of 12- to 17-year-olds have a cellphone, up from 45% in 2004; 88% use text messaging.

It is important to note that media can help children learn important academic material and teach a broad range of interpersonal skills. Given that media content can be either “good or bad”, it is important to find the correct type and limiting or restricting access to inappropriate data. For parents, it is critical to identify a media plan and to establish those plan rules by modeling the right behavior and participating in their lives when they use media, such as watching TV. It is also important to discuss with children the rules and the reasons and to provide a list of websites that are safe to use. In addition, ongoing monitoring and potentially restricting access through settings and third-party software is encouraged.

Non-profit organizations, such as Common Sense can provide additional insight and information to help parents make the right choices for their children.