As a 21st century mom, one of my biggest challenges has been teaching my children about media and technology. I know I am not the only Mom who struggles to navigate the sea of information out there. Sometimes it seems like our children are bombarded by media in too many aspects of their lives, from too early an age.
I remember being horrified that friends would sit their infants in front of Baby Einstein for "stimulation".
I thought, "Stimulation?!? Isn't that what playing with the baby is supposed to do?"
Now that my youngest is three and my oldest approaches 8 years old, I have had to make hard choices about everything from what kind of television they can watch, how much TV is healthy, how old is "old enough" to start using the computer, and how to choose software and internet sites for my kids that are both fun and safe.
For us, the "ground rules" are:
1. Parents are the decision-makers in our home, so we have a very low tolerance for child-based marketing that presumes to sell something to our children. We will almost always opt for products or programs that do not have an advertising component.
2. Whatever my children view or play on the computer must have some learning value. It should provide something that 'real life' does not. In my opinion, diversion or entertainment is not enough to justify spending "screen time". So, with few exceptions, we don't engage in 'virtual' activities, like gardening or pet care, that would be better learned in a real setting.
3. I supervise what my children watch and what they play on the computer. I do not expect a 6 year old to have the judgment to know what is best; that is my job.
4. I never use the TV or the computer to be my babysitter. We set limits on the amount of time a child is allowed to be in front of a screen (30 minutes a day, tops.) Screen time is only allowed after other obligations around the house (homework or chores) are met, and each child must make choices about how he or she will spend the allotment.
5. We don't tolerate media that reinforces bad behavior. That means we don't watch violent movies or play violent games. Ditto with foul language (or, honestly, even 'edgy' language.) I consider it my duty to protect my children, so I don't expose them to the rough edges of the world. They'll get enough of that stuff just by living -- we don't need to beam it into our home.
As my guidelines probably telegraph loud and clear, I tend to be fairly conservative in what I allow. As the week goes on, I hope to share more about television, learning software, and the internet, including tips and safe site recommendations.
But, for now, what are your starting principles for your children and media? What are your ground rules?
- Midwest Mom