A few weeks ago my kindergartner wrote me a note. “Mommy controls all the things I like.” She was mad because I had taken away her computer privileges for the day. She loves to play games on the computer and for the most part I am happy to allow it, but sometimes I put on my “Mean Mom” persona and draw the line. And according the experts, we Americans need to being drawing the line more often.
My daughter is not the only one that loves her media time.
The American Academy of Pediatrics, the doctors that study how kids’ bodies and brains develop, recommend no more than 1 to 2 hours per day of “quality screen time.” That is less than one-third of our children's current media consumption.
I do set some limits and occasionally feel like I am the only “Mean Mom” doing so. And I am sure that my kids feel like they are the only ones who are so limited in their activities. There are others out there questioning their TV consumption. Read about Mountain Mama's experience.
What can you do if you are trying to improve the media habits of your family? Here are my top four suggestions.
1. Set limits.
53% of kids in the KFF survey reported that they have no rules for TV watching (page 11 of the executive summary). Having rules reduces total time spent viewing TV by two hours (p. 19 of the executive summary). Decide what the rule is for your household and enforce it. The heaviest users of TV and video games were also the children with the lowest number of hours spent reading. And we want our kids to be reading. (http://www.ala.org/ala/aasl/aaslpubsandjournals/slmrb/slmrcontents/volume32000/independent.htm)
2. Educate them.
Talk to your kids about media messages.Discuss the programs they watch and what happens to the characters.PBS has terrific media literacy materials
Make sure they know how to stay safe on the Internet.
3. Be present.
Don’t let you children access the Internet where they are not in plain sight. Don’t put a TV in their room. We have all used media as a babysitter from time to time, but try to remain partially tuned in to what your kids are doing.
This one is the hardest for me. I set limits, but don't want to be bothered to watch what they are watching or look over their shoulders on the computer. I am going to try to do better on this one.
4. Model good behavior.
Limit your own media use. Turn off the TV news and your Blackberry during dinner. Let your kids see your reading a book, magazine or newspaper, so they will be inspired to read. They will do better in school if they read according to the American Library Association. “Students who read independently become better readers, score higher on achievement tests in all subject areas, and have greater content knowledge than those who do not.”
Adapted from The National Academy of Pediatrics recommendations. http://www.aap.org/pubed/ZZZRC31PQ7C.htm?&sub_cat=1
Good luck and wear your Mean Mom and Dad hats proudly. Your kids will be better for it.