Our blog usually covers a lot of topics for tweens and teens. This week, we thought we’d look at some ideas for the younger members (5-11 year-olds) of your household when it comes to media and their devices. Too often we use screen time as a reward system or a babysitter for this age group. Worse yet, we forget how tech savvy they are and forget they they need parental controls just as much as their 14 year-old siblings.
The Child Mild Institute came up with a great list of Media Guidelines for 5-11 year-olds that Project B3 really agreed with:
– Watch things together. If you’re worried that your kids are getting bad messages from the media, the best way to counteract them is to watch alongside your kids and point out when something isn’t right. Call out a female character if she only seems to care about boys, or how she looks. Provide context if you are seeing unhealthy relationships (including friendships) or unrealistic beauty standards. Besides reinforcing your values, this will teach your kids to watch television and movies actively, not passively, which is good for their self-esteem. Do this during commercials, too!
– Screen time shouldn’t be all the time. The AAP recommends that parents set sensible boundaries on how much screen time is appropriate for their child. Just as important: designating media-free spaces, like bedrooms and the dinner table. Establishing (and enforcing) these limits from a young age teaches kids to be healthy media consumers.
– Be discerning. Determining what is quality screen time and what isn’t might not be obvious, but look out for things that
-Are age-appropriate- this matters! Just because it is animated does not make it age appropriate.
-Engage your child’s imagination
-Have the right values
– Don’t make screens the reward (or consequence). Technology is enormously appealing to kids as it is, but when we make screen time the go-to thing kids get for good behavior — or get taken away for bad behavior — we are making it even more desirable, thereby increasing the chances that a child will overvalue it.
– Encourage other activities. There are many ways to have fun. Running around outside, playing a sport, reading books, doing crafts — variety is important for a balanced life. Encourage your kids to develop a wide range of interests. Model yourself doing this, too. Let your kids see you reading a book and making things and having a hobby. Finally, present these things as just as rewarding as screen time — not alternatives to it. Equal billing is important.
– Be prepared for them to discover porn (or other inappropriate materials). Even if they’re not exactly looking for it, kids today can stumble onto pornography very easily. Curiosity is often a big motivator, so don’t be shy about having some frank, developmentally appropriate conversations about sex. If they hear it from you then they’ll be less likely to turn to the Internet for answers, and they’ll be more likely to ask you to explain what they see online or hear from friends. And if they do see porn, let them know what they saw was no more realistic than any other movie.
–Set up parental controls and monitor what your kids are doing online. Don’t just hand them an iPad with no limitations and expect them not to explore.
*Project B3 especially likes the ideas of “not making screens the reward” and “watching things together.” Although the entire list is helpful and should be put to use, these two are easily forgotten. How many times have you said, “If you don’t ____, you won’t get to watch a show” or put on the tv without even knowing what your 6 year-old is watching? Although our intentions are not bad when we do this, we could make better choices for our children when it comes to media and screen time.