Another Helping of Media, Son/Daughter?

A fascinating Powerpoint snapshot of media consumption by 8-18 year olds .

I think every parent should read this.  So should every grandparent, teacher, and anyone else who has any interaction with someone under the age of 18.  It’s critical that people understand some of the key things in this survey.

  • Overall media consumption has increased over time
  • Media consumption has diversified into a greater variety of sources than ten years ago
  • Media consumption levels can affect academic performance
  • Households with rules about media consumption have lower overall reported levels of media consumption

It’s frightening to think that this information might be a surprise to some people, but it probably will be.  One major question I have is where is this increased media consumption time being being pulled away from?   Kids report that they are consuming media for nearly 12 hours a day – almost their entire waking day.  That’s phenomenal.  So what arenas are having reduced levels of consumption?  I’d assume that for heavy media consumers, their studies are being shortchanged, based on higher levels of reported bad grades.  I’m also willing to bet – based on how many households reportedly have TVs on all the time, including meal times and when nobody is specifically sitting down to watch something – that family time is being shortchanged. 

I’m aware of – and not totally immune to – the temptation that media offers a parent in terms of occupying a child and giving parents a few minutes – or apparently hours – of breathing space.  Clearly this has long-term repercussions though in patterns set between parents and kids.  If you do not already, you need to seriously think about a set of rules that dictate media consumption by your children.  You also have to determine the healthiest ways to help your children abide by these rules.  Some off the cuff suggestions:

  • Eliminate TVs in your kids’ rooms.  This has the joint effect of lowering overall consumption levels, as well as assisting you in enforcing your rules about TV consumption – in terms of amount of time and content.  I’ll make the goofy suggestion that watching television can – at least some of the time – be a family activity.
  • Enforce child filtering software on your computers.  This type of software prevents designated users from accessing Internet content based on a set of filters and/or a list of sites that have been deemed unacceptable for kids.  Not foolproof, but a basic step that should be effective in helping protect your younger children from inappropriate Internet content.
  • Computers should be kept in public areas of the house, rather than in your child’s room. 
  • Set daily time limits for media consumption – whether television, computer/Internet, or music.  One of the curious effects of consuming media for all of your waking hours is that you have no time to think.  No time to be.  No time when you aren’t being bombarded with some sort of external input.  I can’t imagine how devastating this will be in the long run to people.
  • TVs and stereos should be off unless you’re watching a specific program.  Unless you’re home alone and use these devices for company, there’s no reason they should be on constantly.  You may not be paying close attention, but your brain is still picking up bits and pieces.
  • Be involved and communicate with your children!  Before it gets to the adolescent stage of tug-of-war over everything, set patterns with your kids that will help lead to healthier interactions as they get older, and better choices on their part both before and after they are teen-agers.  Explain why certain things are not allowed.  Explain why you’re putting limits on the time your kids can be online or in front of the TV or on a video game.  Explain why you don’t let them play certain games or watch certain things or listen to certain music.  These conversations shouldn’t be in the form of “I’m the parent and I make the rules”, but rather take some extra time to explain what you’re trying to accomplish with these rules.
  • Fill some of your child’s day with family time.  A shared meal, a discussion time over what happened at school that day, playing a board game (or even playing a video game together) – these are all bonding points that help both you and your children develop appropriate communication skills & patterns with one another.  Make it clear that being a family is a priority for your family, and help cultivate an appreciation of that  in your children by simply enjoying them.

Any other suggestions?  How does your family handle media consumption? 

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