6 Resolutions Every Family with Young Kids Should Make in 2016
If last year you agonized over screen time, 2016 should bring some relief. New research on how media affects kids -- including everything from watching Peg + Cat to reading ebooks to FaceTiming with relatives -- indicates that quality screen time can improve learning, social skills, and even emotional growth. The American Academy of Pediatrics' (AAP) new recommendations depart from its former strict time limits to help families manage smartphones, tablets, TV, and games constructively. But, in all the research and all the recommendations, the common denominator is you. The value of any learning experience depends on the support, guidance, and involvement of parents. With that in mind, here are some New Year's resolutions for families to play an active role in kids' media lives.
Treat tech as a "tool," not a "treat." Kids who use tablets or smartphones only to play games see only the entertainment side of technology. Demonstrate the utility of devices, such as how you send email, use a map, and look up facts. Your kids will still want to play on your phone, but they'll learn that it's much more than a toy.
See setbacks as an opportunity. The lessons that kids learn from overcoming obstacles build the character traits that lead to success. Media can be a powerful ally in reinforcing the message that effort is more important than achievement. Check out our blog post 100+ Ways to Help Kids Learn Grit, Determination, and Resilience.
Focus on content quality, not screen-time quantity. Instead of tallying up your kid's screen-time minutes every day, aim for a balance of activities throughout the week: reading, playing, exploring, and so on. In addition to choosing quality content, use media as a means of furthering and cementing your relationship with your kids. FaceTiming with Grandma and sharing your phone's camera roll, for example, can be wonderful bonding experiences.
Be a family of media critics. Media-literacy skills help kids think critically about what they watch, play, and interact with. They are essential for kids growing up in a world where content and consumerism are increasingly entwined. Encourage young kids to think more deeply about their shows, books, and games. Ask "Who made this?"; "Whom is it for?"; and "What is it telling you?"
Make something. This year, embark on a creative endeavor with your kid. Start an online scrapbook, make a collection of favorite things on Pinterest, design a Minecraft world, or make a silly video on your phone. Your kids will not only learn a new skill, they'll begin to understand the responsibility that comes along with digital creation.
Model the digital habits you want your kids to pick up. Lead by example by putting your own devices away during family time. Parent role-modeling shows kids the behavior and values you want in your home.