Media Rules

Do you feel that media is all-consuming and rules your family life? Our Fall 2016 parent education event, Media Rules: Healthy Connections in the Digital Age, explored how adults and kids can maintain balance, safety, and positive relationships in the digital age. Featuring Dr. Catherine Steiner-Adair and our two Co-Founders, Dr. Denise Pope and Dr. Madeline Levine, the event provided important research and specific advice on how to navigate the media revolution — see below for two lists that highlight some of our favorite takeaways from the program. 

Living in the Digital Age

  1. In the United States, the average age that kids get their first smartphone is 10 years old.
  2. The manner in which teenagers use technology is generally positive, but the amount of time spent using technology is concerning. Middle schoolers are on devices for non-academic reasons from 2 to 5 hours a day. High schoolers are on screens for non-academic reasons for an average of 9 hours a day; this is more hours per day than they sleep!
  3. Never before has it been possible to connect with friends and family 24/7. Technology can strengthen our relationships, but paradoxically, it can also strain them.
  4. With unlimited access to technology, we have lost the boundaries between home and school, and home and work.
  5. Kids have unprecedented access to the adult world via the internet. There is a premature loss of innocence that is occurring with widespread connectivity.
  6. TV watching is passive; phones are stimulating. Human brains crave the stimulant.
  7. A generation ago, kids would come home in the afternoon and have a break from the social drama at school. Today’s kids don’t have that luxury. Often, they return home and immediately log in to technology where the social pressures continue to play out.
  8. Texting eliminates two of the most essential tools for healthy relationships — tone of voice and the opportunity to see the impact of your words on the recipient.
  9. Kids experience FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) if they do not check social media while studying.
  10. Every time a student takes a “break” from studying to respond to a text, he/she loses the previous 9 minutes of what has been learned. These quick “breaks” are counterproductive to the learning process.

Tips to Manage Media

  1. Restrict the use of devices in the car. Car rides offer a great opportunity for conversation with our children. When parents talk on the phone while driving with kids, we inadvertently tell them that a conversation with the person on the other end of the phone is more important than an in-person discussion with them.
  2. Prohibit devices at the dinner table; this is sacred family time which should be preserved.
  3. Talk with your children about appropriate online conduct. Many adults are naive about their children’s exposure to harmful online behavior. Even if your own children’s usage is benign, it’s likely that they have observed poor behavior by others.
  4. Don’t text your kids during the day at school; it’s distracting. It makes children anxious when parents innocently text, “How’d you do on the test, honey?” This takes away their independence and the parent-child separation they deserve during school time.
  5. Avoid reaching for your phone first thing in the morning. What you see in your inbox instantly frames your day and doesn’t allow you the opportunity to create your own agenda — it immediately places you in a reactive mode.
  6. Have your kids disengage from technology at least 30 minutes, preferably an hour, before bed. The blue light that devices emit stimulates the retina and decreases the brain’s production of melatonin, which makes falling asleep more difficult.
  7. Set a time in the evening by which all devices are out of the bedroom. Not only will your teenagers get more sleep, but this “curfew” will help support time management skills.
  8. Teenagers (and adults) should not use their phones as alarm clocks. If a phone is by their bedside, they will be tempted to respond to texts and social media, which will delay or interrupt sleep.
  9. Through middle school, look through your children’s texts and let them know you’re doing it. Don’t view this as policing, but rather trying to give them perspective that their online activity is never truly private.
  10. Be curious; don’t stick your head in the sand out of fear of finding out what your kids are doing online. Display interest and create a dialogue — they are often doing something productive and would value your genuine interest and support. 

A full recording of the Media Rules event is available on YouTube.