How many forms of media are your children experiencing each day? How many electronic gadgets do your children use that allow your them easy access to outside influences? Have you taken an inventory lately?
Kids and Media Consumption
With the recent data from the Kaiser Family Foundation, which showed that kids 8-18 years old are consuming an average of over 7 hours of media a day, and the launch of the iPad, youth media consumption is an extremely relevant topic and it is more important that ever that parents take an active role in how much media their children are consuming.
“Younger and younger children are now in charge of how they consume media, and they are mostly consuming junk,” explains Dr. Eitan Schwarz, MD DLFAPA FAACAP, author of Kids, Parents, and Technology: An Instruction Manual for Young Families and Child Psychiatrist. “Excessive consumption can cause emotional difficulties, as well as result from existing ones. Children need the thoughtful, active and positive guidance of their parents in this amazing Wild-West tech environment. Merely restricting access is just not enough.”
Managing Children’s Media Use
Dr. Schwarz offers the following tips for parents of infants through eight-year-olds worried about their children’s current and future uses of these technologies:
- Take Charge – Have confidence and take charge. You can manage this important area of your kids’ lives. Many parents too readily take a back seat and let kids take the lead. In what other important area of life would they let that happen?
- Media are Appliances – Start thinking of media as family appliances that must have positive values. Kids treat media as toys, but they are in fact adult tools with enormous power. Would you let your unsupervised young child use the telephone or oven? Only devices with proven benefits belong in children’s hands.
- Technology is Healthy – From infancy onwards, teach kids to appreciate technology as a healthy and routine part of family life. Starting young, children will learn that using technology is collaborative and social — and not an isolating solitary activity.
- Include the Whole Family – Create a new environment around the online family computer and other media to promote mutuality, fun, respect, and development for the entire family. Moving the home computer away from the wall and arranging seating all around it will make it a popular center for family life.
- Make Media a Positive Learning Tool – Just as you already shop for healthy food, harvest the positive opportunities offered by media. For example, for every age group there are wonderful Internet sites that offer a world of learning entertainment experiences.
- Create Healthy Media Rules – Tailor healthy media diets into daily menus for each child to provide development opportunities. For example, regularly require enough online time on sites that enhance good values and education enrichment.
About Dr. Eitan Schwarz
Eitan D. Schwarz, MD FAACA DLFAPA is a doctor who knows kids, media, and families. He is board-certified in both general and child and adolescent psychiatry. During his nearly 40 years of distinguished practice and teaching in a variety of public, private, and academic settings, Dr. Schwarz has been steadily learning about the needs of children and families. Since medical school at Johns Hopkins, he has also been studying the uses of technology in health care and the practice of medicine. Currently on the faculty of Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine, he has recently researched the use of digital media in play therapy with children.