January 03, 2019
This year, find ways to be more mindful of your media and tech use -- and your kids will catch on
By Caroline Knorr, Common Sense Media
What do you remember from 2018? Did you share pics of your kid on Facebook? Did you sneak a peek at their texts with their friends? Did you yell at them to get off their devices? Did you watch a movie that made you both laugh (or cry)? Did they send you a text that filled your heart and reminded you of why you had kids in the first place?
So much of our daily lives revolves around media and tech that we barely notice it anymore. But we should. Why? Because these moments are the stuff of life. And the way we use technology really matters.
The start of a new year is a perfect time to reflect on the role you want media and tech to play in your family's lives. After all, media and tech are just the enablers. Learning, connecting, growing -- even setting a positive example for your kids -- are where the real magic happens. These 2019 media resolutions can help you be more mindful, focus on what's most important, get the most out of media and technology, and raise kids with a healthy, balanced relationship with screens.
Be curious -- not judgy -- about your kid's media.
Flossing, slime, "boomerangs" -- what kids are into these days can test your patience. But often, when kids get into things we don't know about or understand, we worry. And that makes us clamp down, when we really should be opening up. In 2019, do something your kids are doing: Play Fortnite, watch Good Mythical Morning, read a Rick Riordan book, download Snapchat or Tik Tok. Talk to your kids and see what they like about the most popular apps, YouTube shows, and social media. They'll respond better to your concerns if you've experienced these things for yourself.
Help your kid learn to manage themselves.
Two things make it really hard for kids to get off their devices. First, they're not great at self-regulating yet. And second, games, apps, social media, and even streaming services are all designed to keep them hooked as long as possible. The path to independently managing their time is going to be rocky. But ultimately your goalis to help them find the right balance. Use tech such as screen-time settings and parental controls as tools to help your kids gain the skills they need to draw limits. (Sometimes you may need a blunt-force tool such as turning off the internet.) If they prove they're good at sticking to limits, ease off a bit. If they falter, keep your eyes on the prize. With your support, encouragement, and guidance, they'll get there.
Have a family movie night.
From on demand to streaming to regular old broadcast TV, the options for how to enjoy movies together are pretty much endless. And making the time to be together offers endless opportunities to seize on teachable moments that come up during the shows. You can talk about issues, characters' strengths and flaws, and themes. All of Common Sense's movie and TV reviews include talking points to get the conversation rolling. Try any of these curated lists of movies and TV shows for all ages, interests, and occasions.
Take one small step toward privacy.
Whether it's turning off your Echo's mic when you're not using it, performing a privacy tune-up on Facebook, or just turning off location serviceson your phone, literally anything you do to safeguard your data makes you just a little bit more private. With the big privacy breaches and hacks of 2018, it's clear that protecting your information is an ongoing responsibility. While you're reviewing your own settings, prompt your kids to check theirs, too. Lots of companies get around the Children's Privacy and Protection Act (COPPA) and collect data on kids' accounts. This means they could be targeted with ads and other creepy stuff.
Embrace the "digital wellness" trend.
It's easy to be skeptical about Google, Apple, Facebook, and other tech companies' so-called "digital wellness" tools. And though things like iOS 12's Screen Time feature and "Time on Facebook" won't solve our reliance on devices (and tech companies could do a lot more to help us cut down), they're a good reminder to be more self-aware and ditch what doesn't feel truly helpful or enjoyable. If there's something you'd like to cut down on, use built-in tools to set limits for yourself. Help your kids become more aware of their own online time and help them take control of their use, too. You don't have to shut everything down. But really focus on what you're doing, when you're doing it, and why. The way you use media and tech has a huge influence on your kids, and you can be a great role model for using them mindfully.
Common Sense Media is an independent nonprofit organization offering unbiased ratings and trusted advice to help families make smart media and technology choices. Check out our ratings and recommendations at www.commonsensemedia.org