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Common Sense's Back-to-School Media Rules

It’s back-to-school time, and in today’s media-saturated world, that means parents have some important homework to do: making sure their kids’ media use doesn’t infringe on their studies.

Common Sense Media
Tuesday, August 21, 2007

SAN FRANCISCO, CA– It's back-to-school time, and in today's media-saturated world, that means parents have some important homework to do: making sure their kids' media use doesn't infringe on their studies.

"Media use can have an impact on kids' academic performance – kids who watch a lot of television, for example, are more likely to develop learning disorders," said Common Sense Media President Anne Zehren. "And in the Internet age, with instant messaging and sites like MySpace and YouTube, it's easy for kids to let the line blur between their studies and recreational computer use. Now is a great time for parents to set some parameters about what kinds of media kids can use and when they can use it."

Here's what we recommend:

Homework for Your Kids:

  • Your kids will be online – establish some rules. Elementary-school kids should be using computers with filters. Tell your middle and high schoolers what your rules are for where they can and can't go.
  • Remind kids about Internet safety – no chat rooms, no meeting strangers. Make sure they tell you if they're harassed or cyberbullied. And make sure they follow your household rules for codes of conduct. If they wouldn't say it in front of you, they shouldn't say it to anyone online.
  • Your kids' online life, video games, and TV time need to wait until homework is finished. Even then, make sure you set time restrictions in advance. Experts recommend no more than two hours of media time per day!
  • If kids are using the computer for homework, they should stay focused on homework. That means no simultaneous instant messaging, music downloading, or social networking.
  • About those phones: No texting during class. Let kids know that you'll be checking their phones to make sure they aren't using them during school hours.

Homework for Parents:

  • Be involved in your kids' media lives. Know where they're going online. Make sure they behave responsibly and review your rules.
  • Check our reviews before letting your kids go to a new virtual-world site, watch a new fall TV show, head out with friends to a movie, or download a new song. On our Web site (www.commonsensemedia.org), we'll give you an age recommendation and let you know about the content so you can choose what's right for your kids.
  • Keep the television out of kids' bedrooms. This makes it easier for you to monitor what and how much they're watching and cut down on screen time. It will also make it easier for kids to stay focused on homework.
  • If your older kids have computers in their rooms, keep the bedroom door open and periodically swing by to monitor time and destinations.