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Media & Technology Use

Television. Cell phones. Music. Computers. Oh my! Technology is the way of the world. We want our children to be able to use and understand technology because they live in a world surrounded by technology. We also want our children to understand how to use technology in a healthy and positive way. It is recommended that children spend no more than two hours per day in total using technology. To help you monitor your child's usage, do not allow your child to have a television, computer, or video game system in his bedroom.

Television

It is important to set time limits on technology use; most experts recommend no more than one to two hours per day. Children who watch more than the recommended two hours per day are more likely to have a higher percentage of body fat than those who watch less.

It is also very important to keep an eye on your child while she is watching television. If she is watching a program, sit down with her so you know what she is watching. If you are concerned about the characters or content of the show, talk to her about your concerns. Ask her what she thinks of the characters and topics. If she might see commercials while watching television, make sure you tell her that commercials are trying to sell things to her. When you are watching television with him, point out the advertisements and talk about what you see and hear. Let your child know that commercials often say things that sound true but are not factual.

It can be difficult to always be present while your child watches a program, especially when the dog has gotten into the garbage, supper is boiling over and your toddler is crying. Because many parents are busy, it can be tempting to plunk your child down in front of the television so you can focus on a different task for even a few minutes. If you chose to do this, make sure the program he is watching is one that you are comfortable with him watching without your presence.

Older early years children can set their own television or movie schedule within the time limits or rules you have set. Make sure you still continue to speak to your child about what she is watching and praise her for making good choices.

Pay attention to your child when you are watching (or even listening to) news broadcasts. If your child is also paying attention to the information it is a good idea to discuss what is being said. There are many things discussed on the news that can be very frightening or confusing for children. Children in this age group are not able to fully understand many of the topics discussed on the news.

If your child hears about potential flooding in your area, for example, she may feel very nervous and scared. Talk to your child about your plan if there is a flood. Tell your child that he doesn't need to worry because if there is a flood, you will take care of him and you have a plan in place. If your child is interested, you can discuss in more detail what you would do if this happened.

Contact your television service provider for more details on using parental controls that can restrict access to certain channels.

Tips on Managing Media Use in Your Home

Cell Phones

Whether your child has a cell phone or not is up to you. Every family has its own reasons and needs and a cell phone can be a very convenient way to reach your child. There are things you should decide, however, before giving your child a cell phone. Remember that early years children need adult supervision. A cell phone is not a replacement for your presence.

There are many different types of phones and plans and you should be clear on what you are willing to spend and why you think your child needs a phone before making the purchase. Many phones have GPS systems, special options to only call a few phone numbers, and other features that your child may or may not need.

Ask your child why he wants to have a cell phone. Stress the reason for getting a phone – for emergency contact between the two of you, for example – rather than the coolness of having a phone. Part of the reason he may want a cell phone is to fit in or feel good about himself, and this may be a great opportunity to speak to your child about his self-esteem. It is important for parents to tell their children that they are cool because they are kind, funny, hardworking, a great sibling, and a great friend, not because they have the latest phone or mp3 player.

If you decide to get her a phone, set limits on how and when your child is allowed to use it. Make sure your child knows the rules and the consequences she'll have to face if she breaks them. It is a good idea to relate the consequence to the phone, maybe reduced hours for talking or removing her phone completely for a day.

Music

Popular music is played frequently and in many locations, but that doesn't mean it is good for your younger child to listen to while at home. It is a good idea to listen to your child's music and ask him why he likes certain artists or songs. Don't be afraid to talk to your child about the words or messages in the music he likes.

Have a conversation about your child's choices and if there are artists you don't want your child to listen to, don't let your child listen to them and explain why they are inappropriate. It is easier to monitor what your five-year-old is listening to than what your nine-year-old is listening to, but you can always praise your child when she makes good choices.

Computers & Internet Use

Odds are your nine-year-old is as good (or better) with a computer as you are. There are many educational websites on the Internet that provide movies, music, learning activities, or games that your child can use.

It is important to speak to your child about safe Internet use. Always monitor your child's use of the computer when she is online. Decide what will count as computer use: talking to a family member through Skype may or may not be included in your child's total usage time. Stick to your limits and rules.

Parental controls on computers are great tools to ensure your child can't access inappropriate websites or content. Some Internet browsers allow parents to have password-protected settings to block specific websites. Some search engines also automatically block certain types of content or websites from their search list.

If you are unsure how to keep your child safe online, follow the links to learn more about protecting your child.

Video Games

Video games come in all shapes and sizes and it is important for parents to know the differences between games and which games are appropriate for your child's age. Some video games will encourage your child to problem solve, get active or read. Other video games will expose your child to violence and sex. Children at this age have a hard time distinguishing between real life and fantasy; many of these topics will frighten or confuse your child.

It is always a good idea to talk to your child about the video games she likes and the games other friends play. It's also a good idea for you to play with your child! Challenge your son to a game of bowling or solving math problems. Your child will be able to help you and will feel like an expert in the situation. This will give him an opportunity to learn how to teach others and will also boost his self-esteem.

You will also want to know what games her friends are playing so you can monitor her game playing when she is at a friend's house. If your child has a friend who is allowed to play games you don't allow your child to play, ensure the other child's parents know you do not want your child to play those particular games. Also talk to your child about your rules and why she is allowed to play only certain kinds of games.

It can be harder to monitor video game usage if you have older children in your family. Games that are appropriate for your 11 or 15 year old likely aren't appropriate for your nine-year-old. You might want to juggle video game time with other activities. Maybe when your younger child is at a friend's house, your child can play his game. But when all of your children are home, the video games being played should be appropriate for everyone. You should speak to your older children about the types of games they play in front of their younger siblings so they are aware of the reasons why you have created this rule.

Like all other types of technology, have rules and limits to video game use. It can be helpful to set a timer once your child begins playing so he knows to turn the game off when his time is up. (This is also good for parents because we can be so busy, we lose track of playing time.) Pay attention to the games your child is playing. Be familiar with the content of the game and if you aren't familiar with it, ask your child questions.

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