When it comes to screen time and online content, what is age and content appropriate is different for every family. Families must figure out what is in their wheelhouse of comfort. To help parents navigate this, we spoke with Caroline Knorr, Common Sense Media’s parenting editor, to get her insights and expertise and learn salient steps to help protect our kids’ safety, sanity, and overall well-being online.
Screen Time Can Be Many Different Things
Caroline Knorr shared with us that, “The idea we have identified at Common Sense Media is that parents and everybody have been indoctrinated to think about screen time as this monolithic block of something and we have been working toward a model to tell parents that screen time can be many different things. Everyone has learned in the past few months that it is so many things and some of it is really good. It can be educational and they can learn a lot and they can do self-directed learning. There’s social connection which has been so important to kids. Not a perfect substitute but it allows kids to have social connections. There’s play time and games. There’s family time with media. Some of the best moments can be media moments with kids. I think one of the best ways parents can approach this is to be really clear about the different categories and talk about balance and trying to achieve balance. So to some extent, we want to give the different types of screen time different weights in your mind.”
Create Your Family Rules and Routine
If you are a family that really enjoys doing contracts then get it all down on paper. Sometimes that can work in different formats. Ms. Knorr said, “I feel like it’s really dependent on your family. Kids like to have rules and we are in such an amorphous time so having a routine is good for parents and kids and it helps with the issue of creating boundaries around their work time.” Create boundaries around work time as a parent. Prioritize, incentivize, and motivate your kid. For older kids doing more hybrid learning you can give them a digital learning pledge. She added that we have to take this responsibility as parents since we have to take so much ownership over this and make sure there are clear boundaries. And check in to make sure how kids are feeling around the technology.
Technology is Manipulative So Always Monitor Activity
Technology is manipulative. It manipulates us to spend more time than is good for us. Ms. Knorr noted, “It’s really hard for kids to stop and parents to stop and kids have trouble saying no. We need to teach them to self-regulate and achieve balance for themselves by trying to tap into how they are feeling at a certain time.” It seems that a lot of parents are allowing kids to have access to social media at younger ages than previously the norm and she added that the tech companies are perfectly happy to have parents break the rules. Ms. Knorr flagged Facebook Messenger as a good example of a good social media program designed just for kids under 13. Parents are in charge of the whole platform. And TikTok also does that and parents can also have a physically adjunct account for their kids’ TikTok. She reminds us that it is very controversial but kids use it and the point is that “the social apps kids are using have built in settings on the app themselves so encourage parents to explore that. Do your own research on it and find out why they want to use the app and keep the account private to protect your kid from being contacted by strangers.” However, this doesn’t completely eliminate the potential since they are social apps and the company pushes potential contacts. For example, you can have a private account but it still might say you may want to be friends with so and so since they consider that opting in. And she doesn’t know of any apps that completely eliminate that.
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