It is crucial to teach children digital citizenship and digital use in a digital world. These skills can be taught by parents.
AAP Tips to Help Families Manage The Ever-Changing Digital Landscape
- Create your family’s media use plan. Media should be used in your best interests and according to your parenting style and family values. Media can be a positive addition to your daily life if used with care and judicious. Media can be detrimental to many essential activities, such as family-time, outdoor play, sleep, and unplugged downtime. Make your plan at HealthyChildren.org/MediaUsePlan.
- Media should be treated as any other environment in your child’s life. Both virtual and real environments should be treated the same way. Children need to know and expect limits. Know the friends of your children, online and offline. Find out what apps, platforms and websites your children use, as well as what websites they visit online.
- Encourage playtime and set limits. Playtime that is unstructured and informal stimulates creativity. Unplugged playtime should be a priority for young children.
- Screen time should not be a lonely time. When your children are on screens, you can co-view, play, and engage with them. This encourages social interaction, bonding, learning, and social interactions. Play video games with your children. This is a great way to show your kids good sportsmanship, and good gaming etiquette. You can watch a show together and exchange your life experiences, perspectives and guidance. You don’t have to watch them online; interact with them so that you can learn from their work and become a part.
- Role model good behavior. Online, model kindness and good manners. Limit your media consumption, as children can mimic you. You’ll be more open to your children and feel closer to them if you interact, hug, and play with them, rather than just staring at a screen.
- Face-to-face communication is important. Two-way communication is the best way for young children to learn. For language development, it is important to engage in “talk time”. Talks can be held face-to-face, or via video chat with a grandparent or traveling parent. Research shows that “back-and forth conversation” improves language skills more than passive listening or one-way interaction on a screen.
- Limit digital media to your children’s youngest relatives. Other than video chat, avoid digital media for toddlers under 18-24 months. Children aged 18-24 months should watch digital media together. They learn by watching you and talking to you. Preschool children between the ages of 2 and 5 should limit screen time to 1 hour per day of high-quality programming. When possible, and especially for children young enough to view the program together, it is the best option. Children learn best when they have to re-learn what they learned on the screen. If Ernie only taught you the letter D, then you can repeat it later with your child while you’re having dinner or visiting family. See Healthy Digital Media Use Habits for Babies, Toddlers & Preschoolers.
- Create tech-free zones. Make sure that your family meals, social events, and bedrooms are free from technology. You should turn off any televisions you’re not watching. Background TV can interfere with face-to-face interactions with children. To help your child avoid temptations to use their devices while they are sleeping, charge them overnight outside of his or her bedroom. These changes will encourage family time, better eating habits, and better sleeping.
- Do not use technology to soothe your emotions While media can help keep kids quiet and calm, it shouldn’t be their only method of learning how to calm down. It is important that children learn how to recognize and manage strong emotions. They should also be taught how to calm down by learning to breathe, talk about solutions, and find other ways to channel emotions.
- Apps to kids – Do YOUR homework. Although more than 80,000 apps have been labeled educational, little research has proven their quality. Interactive products should be more than just “pushing and scrolling.” For reviews on age-appropriate games, apps and programs, look to Common Sense Media to help you make the right choices for your child.
- Your teen can be online. As a typical part of adolescent development, online relationships are a normal part. Teens can use social media to explore the world and find their place in it. Be sure that your teen behaves appropriately in both online and real life. Teens need to remember that privacy settings on a platform do not mean that things are “private”. Images, thoughts, and behaviors shared online by teens will be permanently stored. Let teens know that you are available if they have any questions or concerns.
- Inform children about privacy and the dangers associated with predators and sexting. Teens must be aware that once content has been shared, they cannot delete it or make changes to it. This includes texting inappropriate photos . Teens may not be aware of or choose to not use privacy settings. They should also be aware that sex offenders frequently use social networking, chat room, e-mail and online gaming to exploit children.
- Keep in mind that kids will always be. Media is a tool that children use to make mistakes. Make mistakes with empathy, and you can turn them into learning opportunities. Some indiscretions like sexting, bullying or posting self-harmful images may indicate trouble ahead. Parents should be vigilant about their children’s behavior and seek professional support if necessary.
Digital devices and media are an integral part our modern world. These devices can have great benefits if they are used appropriately and in moderation. Research has shown that the importance of face-to-face interaction with friends, family, and teachers is crucial in encouraging children’s learning. Face-to-face is important. Don’t let technology and media distract from it.
Editor’s note: These tips were derived from two AAP policies (“Media Use in School Age Children and Adolescents”) and “Media and Young Minds”, and the technical report “Children and Adolescents and Digital Media,” published in Pediatrics in November 2016. These tips were also drawn from proceedings of the AAP Sponsored Increasing Up Digital: Media Research Symposium. This symposium brought together media experts, researchers, and pediatricians to discuss new developments in media research and their impact on children.