Raising Media Smart Kids


Last year, as Sydney was getting started in 5K, I attended a talk at school during our Parent Orientation night about raising media smart kids. This year, the school held the talk again and it was awesome. I was sad to see only a handful of families represented. I picked up so many great tips that I want to pass along. My daughter is six so she doesn’t do much social media viewing or posting yet but I know that time is coming. Even though many sites require kids to be 13 years old, kids are still posting and some of the time it’s in the chat rooms of online games. Did you know Minecraft had chat rooms? I feel like chat rooms are SO 90’s! Computer Phone

What I learned? Kids interact more with media than with their parents and school. According to Common Sense Media, kids spend over 50 hours a week using screens. My brain goes fuzzy when I think about my six year old spending 50 hours a week in front of screens, so I stopped to add it up. Since starting first grade, there are no screens after school Monday through Thursday. On Friday anything goes and it’s usually two hours or less. She watches a show in the morning to get moving so usually less than a half hour. On the weekend mornings she would get up to 2 hours depending on what our plans entail. Weekend days and evenings vary at this point. If I had to guess, between computers, iPads and TVs, she spends less than 10 hours a week.

But she’s a first grader with a very early bedtime.

So, think about older kids with access to more devices, games, etc and later bedtimes. Much more time for screens.

Now, for the items of note from our school staff…

  • Remind kids that all posts are searchable and easy to find. Have you Googled yourself lately? Go ahead…I’ll wait.
  • Remember that kids are impulsive and don’t think before they post. (some adults I know fall into this one…)
  • The internet is full of anonymity. The person you think is another kid in the Minecraft chat room might not be a kid at all so be aware.
  • Help your child understand digital drama by setting boundaries and using time outs to cut short rapid fire messages.
  • When online drama occurs, talk with your child about positive conflict resolution.
  • Discuss cyberbullying.

I know that sometimes it’s hard for us as parents to embrace the world our kids live in because it’s so different than the world in which we grew up, but, we have to step back and remind ourselves that this world is ever changing and will change for them too. So, some rules for us:

  • Embrace their world.
  • Encourage balanced use of their devices.
  • Monitor their media usage as best you can (no bedroom, no media at bedtime, parental controls, etc)
  • Discuss safe sites.
  • Be a good media role model (This mama has a little lot of work to do on this one…)
  • Bookmark their favorite sites so it’s easy for them to navigate to. This means less accidental searches if a word gets spelled wrong.
  • Ask other parents about their media rules when your child is headed out to a play date.

phone photoCommon Sense Media provides what they call a 1-to-1 Essentials Program. This program on their website helps you proactively address issues that come up with your kids and media. They also have a customizable device contract as part of the program.

One thing I noted is that in the elementary school, the kids aren’t doing a ton of posting to online sites yet, they are learning how to use computers and other devices. This means we are setting them up to be ready from the technology perspective, so why shouldn’t we also be helping them learn what is appropriate from a social perspective too?

How do you manage media usage with your family?


Raising Media Smart Kids


  1. This is great. I have 3 young boys who love their devices. They’re going to know how to use these things a lot better than we will in a few years. It’s best that they learn to respect them early. Like cars and crossing the road.


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