Managing your children’s use of digital media can be one of the most challenging aspects of parenting in the digital age. It’s not enough to just make one rule about computer use – the chances are that your child has access to multiple devices, and multiple programs and apps on each device. Thus, you need a more nuanced approach than turning the computer off and on.
Apps and technology change quickly as well, so your rules need to either be updated frequently or be adaptable to changes in your child’s use of their digital devices. Creating a family media plan can help. Here’s what you need to know about making a family media plan.
What is a Family Media Plan?
With multiple kids using multiple devices, it can be tough to craft family rules that cover everything.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has created a tool to help you design a family media plan. Essentially, it allows you to set the rules and guidelines for media use that work for your family, then print them out to post in the house and discuss with your children.
The idea is to give you an easy way to develop a concrete set of rules for media use that will address many situations, even those that you might not have thought of yet. For example, do you frequently find yourself worrying about each new app that comes out and makes news for being unsafe or problematic? The family media plan tool encourages you to make a rule that children must ask before downloading a new app. That way, you can vet the media your children are using before they use it, rather than reacting after the fact.
How to Use It
Setting time for the whole family to view or play digital media together can help you set a good example of digital media use for your kids.
The family media plan allows you to set rules and guidelines for a variety of different facets of digital media use. For example, you can establish family rules, such as places in the house where screens won’t be used (like the dinner table or the bedroom) and times when screens won’t be used (like during homework time or family time).
In the same document, you can develop rules for being a good digital citizen, being safe online, being considerate of others while using digital devices, and choosing age-appropriate and acceptable forms of media. You can also list some things to do during times when your children are not using digital media, like reading books or playing outside.
Of course, printing out a list of rules and guidelines isn’t enough by itself – you’ll also need to discuss the rules and the logic behind them with your children. The AAP provides health reasons for some rules – for instance, pointing out that using devices before bed can interfere with sleep next to a possible rule about turning devices off an hour before bedtime. You can also add your own reasons for rules; for example, explaining to your kids that you don’t want them using devices during dinner because it’s the best time for you to hear about their day.
Parental monitoring software can help you monitor your kids to make sure that your family media plan is being followed, and enforce the rules that you set. To find out how it works, get our free trial.