Guidelines for media use with children and adolescents

By: Kristin Miles, PsyD
children-media

The new century has brought with it great leaps in technology. While this is a great step forward for society it also poses new challenges for parenting. Recent studies from the Kaiser Foundation found that children as young as 8 years old are spending nearly 7.5 hours a day consuming media (i.e. television, websites, video games).

It is essential that parents understand the types of media their children are engaging in as it is not all bad. Many types of media try to integrate educational pieces into games to keep learning more interesting but there is also media that has no educational value at all. For these reasons it is important for parents to remember a few guidelines when they are deciding what their children are allowed to use and when.

Parents should always set the example by not using media at inappropriate times. For example, parents need to put the smart phones down during meal times and family times. Secondly, parents need to remember that limits should be set regarding media. Making sure they have completed homework before using media and setting time limits such as an hour of computer or video game time a day. A study at the University of Bristol found that children who spent more than two hours a day in front of a screen had a 60% higher risk of psychological problems regardless of how much exercise they got in comparison to children who had less viewing time. From this study no more than two hours a day of screen time for children is recommended. Using a timer can be a helpful reminder. In addition, children ages 0 to 2 years are recommended to have zero time in front of a screen.

Finally, be sure to get involved with your children’s activities. The more parents know about what their children are doing and what their interests are the better decisions you can help them make about the types of media they use. This will also help you to know how to relate to your child as they become more immersed in media as they get older and maintain a positive parent – child relationship.

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