Simple Guidelines for Your Tweens and Teens: A Follow-Up

We recently wrote about the Common Sense Census : Media Use by Tweens and Teens, 2019 that revealed some interesting information about the type of media young people are using, how long they are using it daily, and who has a phone and computer.

The results were basically this: Tweens and teens are still on their screens for way too many hours per day, they are consuming too much content and not creating it, and the age at which children get their own devices is getting younger and younger.

Sometimes the results of these census’ can get us down, as parents and educators, but they can also be good reminders to keep up the good work that you are most likely already doing at home. After all, you are taking the time out of your day to read this, so you the topic must interest you. The main goal with media and young people is to remain engaged and involved in what they are doing online.  Kids and young people need media mentors to help them use smart judgment, make informed decisions, and develop a sense of responsibility online.

Common Sense Media came up with these great guidelines for how to help your kids and teens develop a healthy relationship with media and screen time:

Ignore cellphone pressure. Though a majority of kids have a phone by 11, base your decision of when (or whether) to get one for your kid on your family’s actual needs and your kid’s maturity level.

Enjoy videos and apps with your kid. Co-viewing and co-playing are bonding experiences, whether they happen on the big screen or a mobile device. Download games you can play against one another, subscribe to YouTube channels to watch together, and listen to audio books and podcasts. If you can’t watch together, ask about what they’re using; most kids love to talk about media.

Encourage (actually, enforce) balance. The Census proves that media use only increases as kids get older, so make sure you’re actively protecting your kid’s homework time, downtime, and family time from tech intrusion. You can set up screen-free times and zones (such as the dining table, the bedroom, and during homework).

Model healthy phone use. With some kids getting phones as early as 8, it’s important that you demonstrate the habits you want your kids to pick up. When you have to use the phone when you’re with your kids, tell them why. Make a show of turning off your phone for family time. Tell kids how you set limits for yourself.

Get to know YouTube. The census confirms what many of us already know: Kids really love YouTube. The platform has made changes to slightly improve the appropriateness of related videos displayed to kids. But you can use a few tools, such as playlists, subscriptions, and even an ad-free membership, to cut down on exposure to iffy stuff. Try to make time to watch with your kids when you can.

Encourage creativity. Though the creative platforms that are popular with kids, such as TikTok, Snapchat, and Instagram, each have pros and cons, they do offer incredibly sophisticated image-editing tools that allow kids to really let their imaginations go. Consider experimenting with them together. You can also nudge kids toward other creative tools, such as writing, coding, 3D modeling, and building games to get them into creative hobbies.

These are all great tips for mentoring children at any age. Even with very young children, parents need to be aware of how often their children see them on their phone and what types of media they are viewing. Children are highly aware of what adults are doing- even from a very young age.

Project B3 also wants you to remember that we know it is easy to write these tips as a list on a computer, but tougher to enforce them in day to day life. But, in the long run, the upsides to being a media mentor to your child will far outweigh the downsides.