Working out and eating right are at the top of most people’s New Year’s resolutions. But as tough as those are, nothing compares with the challenge of a healthy media diet. There are screen-time limits to manage, new apps to investigate, bizarre social media trends to make sense of (what’s with the mannequin challenge, anyway?), and, don’t forget, plenty more Pokémon to catch. It’s like a 24-hour all-you-can-eat buffet when all you really want is a carrot stick. But in a world where both parents and kids are racking up serious screen time, making a commitment to a healthy media environment is critical for family time, learning, relationships, and digital citizenship.
It won’t always be easy to make your media resolutions stick. Especially because we parents tend to gobble up as much screen time as our kids. Unlike those midnight-snack runs after the kids go to bed, however, your media habits are being recorded by tiny ears and eyes. But we’re all in this together: This fun, crazy, innovative, challenging media environment affects us all. So whether you’re turning over a new leaf or trying to stay the course, our 2017 media resolutions can help you be more mindful, focus on what’s most important, get the most out of media and technology, and raise good digital citizens.
Have a device-free dinner. Piles of research show the benefits of family dinner. But the simple act of leaving your devices off the table — just a few times a week — allows you to role-model good digital habits (and actually talk to your kids).
When it comes to media, think quality, not quantity. Instead of counting up every minute your kid spends watching YouTube, strive for a balance of online and offline activities throughout the week.
- Help your kids find high-quality movies, TV shows, apps, games, and books so their screen time has some nutritional value.
Use media for relationship strengthening. While there are concerns that media isolates us, it can absolutely bring us together — if you take advantage of how it connects you.
- Try video-chatting, scrolling through digital photo albums, playing video games, and even sharing music playlists to bond with your kids.
Don’t ban; have a plan. Keep an open mind about your kids’ media and tech, and accept the important — and often beneficial — role they play in your kids’ lives. When you have clear lines of communication, you can slip in your messages.
- Create a family media plan to ensure that kids stick to limits. Encourage them to behave positively online and be upstanders. Talk to them about what they watch, play, create, and read.
Seek out diverse characters. Exposure to a variety of types of people increases tolerance and acceptance and dispels dangerous stereotypes. Being able to get along with all types of people is a skill that will help kids whether they’re interacting online or in the real world.
- Have a family movie night and watch TV shows with diverse characters, movies with strong female characters, or movies with incredible role models for boys.
Raise media-savvy kids. If 2016 was the year fake news went viral, make 2017 the year your kids learn how to view all media (not just “news”) critically.
Tighten your privacy. Our increasingly connected world puts kids’ personal privacy and online data at risk. Just last year, several high-profile companies settled a suit alleging that they had violated the Children’s Online Privacy and Protection Act (COPPA) by allowing kids’ data to be tracked. The ability to share anything at any time can be especially dicey to tweens and teens who may not be able to think through all the ways their posts can be used by others.
- Make sure kids use strict privacy settings on social media, apps, and other accounts, and make sure they know not to share any personal information (name, age, address, Social Security number) with people they meet online.
About the Author: Caroline Knorr
As Common Sense Media’s parenting editor, Caroline helps parents make sense of what’s going on in their kids’ media lives. From games to cell phones to movies and more, if you’re wondering “what’s the right age for…?” Caroline can help you make the decision that works best for your family. She has more than 20 years of editorial and creative marketing writing experience and has held senior-level positions at Walmart.com, Walmart stores, Cnet, and Bay Area Parent magazine. She specializes in translating complex information into bite-sized chunks to help families make informed choices about what their kids watch, play, read, and do. And she’s the proud mom of a teenage son whose media passions include Star Wars, StarCraft,graphic novels, and the radio program This American Life.
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.