If your child is a digital native, chances are they use every opportunity to use their digital gadgets. But just like in case of food, not every material is valuable for them: it can be divided into junk food – ”empty” products that don’t contain any beneficial content and ”nutritious” ones – entertaining, but educational at the same time.
Know your enemy
Digital junk food for kids – we’ve all seen it. The majority of us can recall at least a few programmes/shows/apps that offer worthless, easy-to-consume entertainment. And the online world creates so many opportunities for kids to plug in and consume such media: through smartphones, tablets, computers, TV sets… the list goes on.
Digital junk food is usually hard to spot – but soon we discover that behind the fancy name or attractive commercial there is nothing valuable for kids in it. ”Attractive commercial” can be a key expression in this case: such products are advertised to children in such a way to look so irresistible that the child feels a desperate need to have them.
And again, just like in case of a healthy diet, it is almost impossible to completely avoid the media you wouldn’t like your child to consume. What can you do to reduce it? The same thing you do when it comes to unhealthy snacks – don’t keep them at home and monitor access to them. Get rid of channels that serve mindless dose of entertainment, download quality apps, buy movies you would like your child to watch.
Another thing you can do is setting the limits. American Academy of Pediatrics recommends up to 2 hours of screen time for kids aged 3-18. However, reports show that it is not that simple to put these recommendations into effect. According to a report Always Connected children aged 8-10 spend about 5 and half hours daily using media and they are exposed to 8 hours a day while multitasking: for example using smartphone while watching cartoons on TV. This report has been released in 2011, but we can predict that the amount of time kids spend with media has only risen till now.
“Digital media are as much a part of kids’ lives as the air they breathe,” says Dr. Rich. ”Whether this is good or bad is a moot point now—the real challenge is figuring out how to help our children benefit from high-tech tools while still making sure that they are playing and learning in the tried-and-true ways”.
Fire the babysitter
Try to be present in their digital life – some parents treat media as a digital babysitter allowing the child to stay in front of screens for several hours. One study Parenting in the Age of Digital Technology shows that parents say they are more likely to turn to toys or activities (88%) or TV (78%) when trying to keep their children occupied. 37% of parents with smartphones or tablets claim they are very or somewhat likely to turn to those devices to keep their kids busy.
While having a few hours for yourself may be tempting sometimes, unsupervised access to digital media can be dangerous for kids leading to addiction, obesity, problems in paying attention etc.
Instead, become present in this area as well: from time to time use the app with the kid together, watch a cartoon with them. In that way you will get to know about your kid’s taste, which will help you make more conscious decisions about products you will get for your child in the future.
It’s good to be picky sometimes
Picky eater can sometimes give you sleepless nights, but being picky when it comes to digital media is actually a positive thing. Sit with your child and discuss how much time they will dedicate to each device and what programmes they will watch. Such a conversation will encourage your kid to be more choosy when it comes to the media they consume and not only choose them for the sake of using screens.
Thanks for reading and see you next week,
Magdalena | Appetite For Education
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