I recently worked with Carisa of Digital Storytime on a survey about media use in the home. We wanted to understand how other families are managing screen time to get discussions going about best practices. The results from 100 parents are posted on Carisa’s blog: Strategies for a Balanced Media Diet. Thanks to all of the parents who filled out the survey. I learned a lot from reading the data, and wrote this blog post to share my impressions.
A few parents said they didn’t feel qualified to give advice about tips for balanced media use in the home. While I respect the inclination to be modest, I think opinions from parents on the front lines are a very valuable source of information.
For example, here are a few themes that caught my attention:
One of the most valuable things I can do is spend time with my kids.
Historically I’ve advocated for “media limits”. But of the top five strategies parents use regarding media in the home, “participation” was ranked higher than “limits”. What does this tell me? Have I been focusing too much energy on the clock? Maybe it reminds me that regardless of the rules I set up for media use, the “time” that really counts is the time I’m participating with them.
Be motivated to do cool stuff.
Many parents commented that having plenty of activities around is key to curbing “too much screentime”. Arts and crafts, trips to museums and libraries, or outdoor activities all play a role in family life. Having those options available for kids and adults to enjoy can be a natural way to balance the home. But nothing will happen if I, the mom, am too tired to pull it off. I’ve got to be motivated, and energized, to go out and do cool stuff.
Pay attention to the programming.
Responses about what changes parents would like to see in the media landscape were loud and clear: “LESS CRAPPY CONTENT; LIMITED COMMERCIALS; LESS ADVERTISING DIRECTED TOWARDS CHILDREN”. I think we’re all sick of it, because everyone seemed to be on the same page. Violence, social media, privacy…these all seem to be concerning to parents. In contrast, parents seem to be appreciative of “fun educational games with good clean values and role models”. Paying attention to content is increasingly important now that anyone can publish anything anywhere at any time.
Just a note…
My kids are growing up right along with yours. At ages seven and nine, the girls are moving beyond the little kids apps, and are more curious about how to send an email or Facetime a faraway friend. I often think about how I’m going to manage once they are more independent. One thing I know, is that I have a great community to learn from.