The holidays are a wonderful time for families to gather together, but in between those hours spent with loved ones, there will be many, many hours of down time. Many school breaks are over three weeks long, so what will kids do with all of that free time? In most households, kids will be consuming lots of media — TV, moves, video games, and apps.
On average, kids will have more than 300 hours over winter break to fill until the New Year. Despite the best-laid plans, more than 100 hours will end up dedicated to screen time, if not checked.
Dan Olschwang, a former advertising executive and veteran of the digital media world, has spent years researching and working with top pediatric experts from Harvard to find ways to help parents navigate the digital parenting realm. The result of his efforts is the Dawn app for parents. The app serves as a tool to help parents customize their unique child’s screen time. Parents can use Dawn to easily rate and identify fitting, constructive children’s apps and games. With crowdsourced ratings, Dawn help parents chose media that will benefit their children’s educational and developmental processes.
Over the holidays, Olschwang offers these tips to parents to help regulate their children’s media consumption, and hopefully form good media habits for the New Year and beyond.
Limit the length of each media sessions – Keep each session of media consumption limited to an hour and have
Bundle all screen time and explain why – Screen radiation damages brain and eyes when viewed for long stretches, as well as interferes with proper balance of hormones and vitamins.
Let the child decide, with some guidance – Guide them to physically active choices, but give them freedom and variety. Offer and alternate between a variety of choices, rather than dictating a specific activity. Legos, reading, outdoors – if they constantly gravitate toward the same activity – insist they choose something else at the next break.
Provide positive alternatives in media – When they are online or on a mobile device, find exciting apps, games movies that can substitute the negatives they might be gravitating towards.
No media before bed time – End all screen time five hours before bed time and minimize the adrenaline rush towards the end. Exposure to less exciting, less suspension, less scary when finishing screen should be advised. Calm content should be viewed last.
Talk to them as if they are adults – First, get yourself informed so you can explain to you child your consideration. Then start a dialog and explain your reasoning and where they come from. The “because I said so” line doesn’t cut it.
Talk to them about their media consumption – Take the time to know what are the watching or playing. What is the take away lessons? Why is it right or wrong, does it reflect your family values? What is different from real life experiences/behaviors/attitudes from what they are seeing on the screen?
Remember, you are not your child entertainment squad – Believe it or not, being bored is important!! It forces them to use their imagination, creativity and find ways to entertain themselves. Being passively entertained constantly, inhibits the development of many important skills like resourcefulness, curiosity, etc.