The ease of access to media has increased dramatically in recent years and instant messaging on the computer, texting on cell phones, and playing video games have become national pastimes. Kids today use computers as a primary mode of keeping in touch, often in lieu of oral or face-to-face communication. Whether or not you're comfortable with your kid's current level of media usage, you may be looking for ways to keep tabs on the time they spend glued to a screen. Here are tips for keeping various media from being the center of your kid's life.
Enforce what fits with your family values. Know what your child is watching, playing and listening to so you can (if you feel you need to) limit the exposure to violence and inappropriate sexual messages that may be present in video games, videos and other forms of media. Sit with your children when they watch TV to see exactly what they are hearing and use these as teachable moments. If you get the line, "But I won't be cool if I can't talk to my friends about it!" talk to your child about how he can deal with other kids who feel this way.
Consider computer placement in your home. While it's completely fine (and generous) for your child to have his own computer there's no absolute need for him to have one before high school (when papers and research really kick in!). If you have a family computer, place it in a public place; this way you can walk by every so often to see where they are online. Also, make use of parental controls offered by your computer software, your web browser or your service provider. This way, your child won't have access to inappropriate websites.
Limit video game playing. Too much TV, video games, etc., has been linked to childhood obesity. If a friend is over, after a half-hour of Xbox, encourage your child to go outside and do something active. If they love the media so much, let them create their own media. Many digital cameras have a video mode and they can make their own films. Your kid may not win an Academy Award, but they will have to think and act, which involve more mind and body energy than sitting with the remote control.
Make media rules. Make whatever rules feel right for you. No TV until homework and chores are done. No R-rated movies. No purchasing of video games unless they have an "E" rating. Just make sure to stick to your rules.
Check in with other parents. If another child is at your house, verify their parents' media rules. When your kid goes to another house, reinforce to your child your own family rules and hope that you don't find out the other parents' are more lenient. If you do, and you're not OK with them, talk to that parent about what you expect for your child. Remember, you need to do what feels right for your family.report abuse