Balancing technology and media
How much is too much technology for kids?
Research shows that when children are “plugged in” all the time, they’re not as happy as kids who spend less time using media and technology. The challenge for parents is not to prevent children from using media and technology, but to achieve a healthy balance between the time spent connected to technology and having it unplugged at home. Developing a family media use policy is an excellent way to achieve balance in the amount of time your children spend on cell phones, watching TV and using computers.
Family media use policy
Nobody knows or loves your kids quite like you do. A personalized family media use policy sets the ground rules for media consumption in your home and gives your children clear, loving parameters to operate within. Deciding with whom, when, where and what your children do on their computer and cell phone is an important step in helping them become responsible, honest and caring adults.
- Who: Decide who can use a computer, TV and cell phone in your home. Consider the ages of your children to determine whether or not they are old enough for a cell phone or to use the computer independently. If your child is younger than middle school-age, he may not have a need for a cell phone. Make a decision that reflects your understanding of your child’s maturity and needs.
- When: Set limits on when your children can talk or send texts on their cell phone, watch TV and use the computer. Consider taking your children’s phones away at bedtime so they don’t stay up late sending texts that you can’t monitor.
- Where: Make sure your children understand where they can and can’t use cell phones and computers and watch TV. Discuss, for example, that church, school and the dinner table are inappropriate places to talk on the phone or send text messages. Remove TVs from the bedrooms in your home, or at least from your child’s bedroom. Encourage TV and computer usage to occur in one common area in your home, as this will help you monitor usage and stay connected as a family.
- What: Develop expectations about what your children can and can’t do online; who they can and can’t talk to on their phones; and what they can and can’t watch on TV. Ask them what their friends are doing online or talking/texting about on their phones. Discuss the harmful effects of gossiping or slandering people, for example, online or over the phone.
Embracing technology and helping your children understand how to use it in a safe, healthy manner is the best way to prepare them for life as adults, which will surely involve using media and technology. The time spent and work you do setting and enforcing your expectations regarding media usage will pay off by preparing your children for adulthood.