As parents, we teach our children by doing activities along with them. We don’t hand our child an apple and knife and tell them to cut the apple. We go into the kitchen with them, show them how to safely hold the knife and cut the apple responsibly. We need to use this same mindset when it comes to teaching our children how to use technology.
When parents become digital mentors, children can learn empathy and resilience and prepare for careers. From NPR’s Life Kit, here are four ways to harness the advantages of screen time:
1. Whenever possible, share screens with your kids.
With the littlest kids, treat screens like a picture book. As they get older, bond over movie nights and video game time, and talk with them about what they’re playing and watching solo. Prompt them to reflect on the positive lessons and the negative messages they’re getting — a process called “active mediation,” which helps you connect with your kids and helps them become more media savvy.
2. Balancing screen use is about much more than time.
Rather than focusing on controlling the amount of time a child is clocking on screens each day, look at the overall balance of the child’s day. Is your child getting enough sleep? Are you managing screen-free family meals? Are there any behavior problems? And make sure media time is balanced among consumption, creation and connection — such as video chatting with the grandparents.
3. Be smart about content.
Most popular children’s apps are bogged down with ads. Autoplay can lead to some inappropriate content. Be the guardian when they’re younger, and keep the conversation going to lay the foundation for kids to make wise media choices as they get older.
4. Look for what’s positive about your kids’ screen time so you can help those positive things grow.
We don’t get far as parents if we always condemn our kids’ interests. Help them find safe, positive outlets for their media passions. Consider that video games might help your child engage with reading or storytelling — and that writing and reading fan fiction about a pop band might be a way to connect with others and be creative.
Project B3 thinks these are fantastic tips for being a media mentor for your children. We especially like #3- Be Smart about Content. Not all content is created equally. Just because an app looks like it’s created for a child- does not mean it is! This is the same for animated shows on tv and Netflix. Be sure to preview content or explore new content with your child to make sure it is appropriate. Yes, it’s time consuming, but worth it.