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Rules and advice for your child's media consumption

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The spread of new technologies has led to profound changes in children's leisure time behavior. During childhood, most of the day should be spent away from the screens, engaging in other extracurricular activities, such as playing with peers, hobbies, and creative pursuits . However, as children grow up, they are increasingly drawn to the digital world. In this article you will find some suggestions related to the fundamental rules to educate your child to use new technologies consciously and thus achieve a balanced relationship between the use of the media and other leisure activities.


Children and technology - What are the rules for a healthy use of digital media?

The need to regulate the use of TVs, computers, smartphones & Co. mainly depends on how much time your child spends in the company of the digital devices at his or her disposal. In fact, every child has different personalities and interests: some prefer sports and creative hobbies, while others are fascinated by the world of media and gaming . Therefore, carefully observe your child's behavior and evaluate how often and for what purpose he uses new technologies. Not all digital media are the same: educational programs and content, as well as the creative use of digital media (photographs, online graphics and drawing programs, etc.) have an important pedagogical value, far greater than TV series or entertainment websites .

You can also read: Digital Education Tools

If, on the other hand, you believe that it is necessary to establish rules to regulate your child's media consumption, we recommend that you define them in agreement with him. This way your child will not only understand the importance of following the rules in general, but by participating in the decision they will understand why it is appropriate to follow them specifically. Therefore, include your little one's point of view and ask him what his wishes and reflections on the subject are. Discuss openly if misunderstandings or potential conflicts arise. Together you also define how you will verify compliance with these rules and what awaits him if he violates them.

It is important that your rules allow for some degree of flexibility. On a rainy day, for example, you could give your child a little more time to play a video game or in front of the TV and, in return, take a break from digital media the next day. As a general guideline, however, it is always good to plan completely media-free days so that your child has enough time for other hobbies and activities as well.

Once the rules are established, the easiest way to implement them in daily life is to introduce routines . With the help of fixed schedules and rituals your child will learn to orient himself and evaluate the time spent in front of the screen. Here are some everyday tips that will help you establish healthy habits:
  • avoid using digital media 1-2 hours before going to bed
  • no cell phones at the table or while doing homework
  • after school, give priority to playing outdoors and with friends
  • define the days and times of the day without media
  • schedule fixed times for media use

How long in front of the TV? Some guidelines for your baby

To understand how much time your child can devote to TV, tablets and mobile phones, you need to take into account what media he uses and for what purpose. If your little one uses digital devices actively and for educational purposes, there is no need to excessively limit their consumption. From time to time it is possible to make an exception to the established times, especially if the media are used to carry out activities with the whole family or for homework. Here are some guidelines and recommendations:

Age Recommended daily duration
0 - 2 years Absolutely not recommended
3 - 6 years 30 minutes
6 - 7 years 60 minutes
8 - 10 years 90 minutes;
11 - 13 years 120 minutes

From the age of ten you should let your child gradually learn to be more independent and manage their time independently, with and without media. There are several ways, some even fun and creative, to control how much time your child spends each day on their digital activities. For example, you could design a table to organize your free time from the media and, as time passes, tick the hours or mark them with colored stickers. Alternatively, you can also prepare “ multimedia vouchers” That your child can redeem whenever he wants to watch TV, play with his computer or smartphone. Or again, why not invent a symbolic "coin", for example in the form of marbles, that your child receives for every half hour spent in front of the screens? When you have run out of marbles, it means that the hours of the week for digital media are exhausted and therefore it is time to take a break.

Even the same digital devices and apps can be useful for getting an overview of your child's “screen time”. Many computers and smartphones have special settings that limit the time of use. Even on the Wi-Fi router, you can change the settings to limit Internet access or usage time. Alternatively, you could use a timer, with which to block the current of all digital devices.

As the years go by, your child may begin to want a smartphone or computer of their own. Even in these situations, there are guidelines that can help you, such as the 3-6-9-12 rule:
  • under 3 years: no devices with screens
  • under 6: no game consoles
  • under 9 years: no personal mobile phone
  • under 12: no internet without parental supervision
As always, these are indicative values: it is up to you to decide, based on your situation and your child's media habits, when he will be ready to have his own personal devices.

Determining when media consumption becomes excessive is also a subjective matter, as it depends on the character and interests of the child. Watch your child carefully and make sure you always offer him "offline" alternatives for his free time. The excessive use of the media is manifested through various signals, such as:
  • decline in academic performance
  • difficulty concentrating
  • lack of interest in other activities and abandonment of hobbies
  • fatigue and irritability
  • tendency to isolation and neglect of social contacts
  • refusal for family activities
In all these circumstances, you must act promptly and introduce clear rules of access and use, in order to educate your child in a balanced use of the media.

Digital education for parents

Parents are the main reference figures in children's education and are an important role model to follow. The little ones observe them carefully and are influenced by their behavior also with regard to the use of the media. Their media habits can therefore have a strong impact on the digital education of children: it is therefore important that parents are able to set a good example and know how to teach their children a correct and responsible management of new technologies. Parents often don't notice how much time they spend in front of the screen. Therefore, it becomes essential to have a pinch of extra attention to one's actions and to be aware of when, where and how often digital media are used. Below you will find some food for thought, which will help you to better evaluate your relationship with the media:
  • How often do you use your mobile / smartphone and in what situations?
  • How often do you watch television or listen to the radio?
  • How well do you know digital media?
  • Are you updated on new digital trends?
  • Do you post pictures of yourself and / or your child on the Internet? Are you sure you comply with the General Data Protection Regulation?
  • What kind of information do you post on the Internet and who can see your messages?
These questions will help you analyze your media habits and, if necessary, change them. For example, if you notice that you tend to spend too much time on your smartphone, try introducing a cell-free day or tracking usage via an app. An in- depth knowledge of digital processes and dynamics will allow you to give competent answers to your child's questions and to accompany him on his digital media learning path.

And why not take this opportunity to reflect and improve the media habits of the whole family? To make each member aware of how much time they spend on various digital devices, you can introduce a simple rule: everyone must point out to other family members if they are spending too much time in the company of the media or if the situation is inappropriate (for example during a conversation , at the table, etc.). In this article you will find more information on how to use your smartphone in social situations.

Observing the behavior of other family members helps you become more alert and aware of your habits.

Conclusions

A good digital education, in a world pervaded by new technologies and constantly evolving, requires a lot of attention and constant commitment from parents. As role models, it is essential that they are the ones to set a good example and that they know how to teach their children to make a balanced use of TV, computers and smartphones, encouraging them to spend a lot of time outside the world of the media. While some benchmarks will help you estimate how much time your child should spend in the company of the media, always evaluate the situation based on your child's behavior and character.

  • Content Credit: Online Research
  • Photo from Pixabay.com
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