The New Guide to Managing Media for Tweens and Teens

With kids consuming more media than ever before, parents need new rules for how to manage it. By Jill Murphy

Today's kids are immersed in media. More than ever before, tweens and teens are watching, reading, listening, creating, and communicating throughout their entire day. It's become harder to distinguish between screen time and just … time. The newly released Common Sense Census found that American teens average about nine hours of media per day and tweens about six per day. This doesn't include time spent doing homework on a computer or tablet or reading books for school.

Beyond the amount of time kids are spending with media, the Common Sense Census identified several patterns, from what boys and girls do differently to their favorite media activities. If you're wondering how this all affects your kid -- well, there's no one-size-fits-all answer. But what's clear is that parents, teachers, and supportive adults can help support kids in using media and tech in healthy, productive, and responsible ways. Here are tips for parents:

Parents should feel empowered to set limits on screens of all sizes. Devices are a huge part of screen time, and kids need support in establishing balance and setting limits. Depending on your family, these rules can be as simple as "no phones at the dinner table" or "no texting after 9 p.m.
 
Encourage your kids to be creative, responsible consumers, not just passive users. Media can be incredibly productive, educational, and empowering. Helping younger kids find great content and get access to quality books, complex movies, challenging games, and safe apps and websites fosters a positive relationship with media. 
 
Help kids understand the effects of multitasking. Our research shows tweens and teens think multitasking has no impact on the quality of their homework. As parents, we know that helping kids stay focused will only strengthen interpersonal skills and school performance. Encourage them to manage one task at a time, shutting down social media while working online for homework or engaging in conversation. 
 
Talk the talk, walk the walk. 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. Kids will be more open and willing participants when the house rules apply to you, too.

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About Jill Murphy

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Jill Murphy is Vice President, Editorial Director at Common Sense Media. Jill joined Common Sense in January 2005, built the editorial department with founding Editor-in-Chief Liz Perle, and served as Deputy Managing... Read more

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Comments (2)

Adult written by Kathy78

Amazing guide. I would also include that you need to be aware of what your kids post and whom they talk to online. There are parental controls like pumpic app or wordshare. These can help you set limits like blocking 18+ websites and applications or even mask dirty words in their text messages. Overall, I love your message and I think I will print it out and hang it on my fridge :)

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