Parenting & Media: When, Where, and What?

I’ll be honest. Media makes the perfect, free, and always available babysitter. I have always been strict about media, but have never been explicit or consistent about how much and how often and when. I decided to change that.


The kids have never had a clear expectation about when, what, where and how long they could use media, other than more often than not, mom is going to say “not now.” -But that doesn’t stop them asking for screen time every five minutes. ((Sigh)) I wondered at the beginning of this year, how I could get rid of this battle and make media a win/win for all of us.

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I need consistent breaks in my day. The kids deserve a chance to unwind and enjoy some stupid YouTube video of a spoiled kid opening toys or something equally as mind numbing.

Just kidding.

My husband HATES very few things, but the toy openers on YouTube are up there. It drives him crazy. Why would our children rather watch other kids open up toys than play with the toys we bought them?  Gripe.

Never-the-less, the kids need some down time and want some media, so I started scheduling it to work for both of us.

My 4 year old son knows that everyday, he can have 45 minutes of iPad games or a show after he has a 45 minute “Rest Nest” playing in his room alone after nursery (US: pre-school).

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Evan’s favourite media picks: anything Star Wars related- animated. I think he is a bit young for SW, but he and his dad bond so much over their shared love and it is pretty cute.

I am so passionate that kids are able to entertain themselves and have space to use their imagination and rest. Somedays Evan looks at a book. Other days I hear him creating a world with superheroes or dinosaurs or both.

This routine gives me 90 minutes of largely uninterrupted time to prep dinner, catch up with a friend, write, clean the house, and settle baby girl down for her nap. Lately, with baby #4 on the way and the move back to Texas, I’ve been napping too. Hallelujah! It is bliss for both of us. Evan told me today, “I Love Rest Nest time!”

Me too, kiddo.

My 7 year old daughter gets 3o minutes of computer time a day whenever she wants to schedule it. This has been awesome. It puts her in control, mitigates the tension, and when the timer goes off, she is amazing about exiting. She gets extra time when we are doing something strictly educational, like maths* or literacy.

*Maths— in the US, it is math. It has taken me nearly 13 years of James and I being together to accept the ‘s’ at the end of that word, and now I finally catch myself saying ‘maths’ without hesitation, only to move back to the US in a month. Ha!

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Most likely to find her on Animaljam.com, PBS kids or something Disney or animal related on the computer.

1.5 year old Meredith gets her little YouTube channel which has popular nursery rhymes that carries over to some of the little classes we do. I put it on pretty frequently lately because of all the craziness  of being pregnant and moving 5,000 miles away. I’m loving the language that is coming out of the consistency of the songs, too.

We also give her an I-Phone some mornings to catch a bit of extra sleep. During my undergraduate of child development, I studied the effects of technology on young children alongside the benefits of play. Because of this, I am principled and pretty strict about media and kids- but I am very willing to sacrifice these principles for the highest luxury of SLEEP.

On the weekend, I make a deal with the kids: An hour upstairs gives them a movie. Then while baby girl naps, the older two play in their rooms and hubby and I get some much needed time alone.

Common Sense Media

Commonsense Media

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If we are friends, most likely you have already heard me talking about this website. Essentially, it breaks down media in multiple categories- movies, TV shows, and apps to give you detailed information on the appropriateness level for your child. Many parents have a rule that if something is questionable, they have to see it first. I love that someone else has watched it first and reported back. This website gives me the insight I need to make an informed decision on behalf of my children quickly and accurately.

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Scarlett, 7 got invited to see Beauty and the Beast and the website gave me a quick reference to make an informed decision. We opted to skip this one.

As a bonus, it talks about positive messages you can discuss after the movie with your children. I love a teachable moment, particularly on something the kids are motivated to listen to!

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I love that the website shows the good and the bad. It is very balanced.

I’m more conservative on media than many of my friends, but not all of them. I believe the world has enough violence, cruelty, promiscuity in it already.  I talk to my kids all the time about how, as a family, we try and select things that demonstrate using creativity to add light/peace/humour into the world instead of darkness/destruction and evil. This might not make  me too popular, but protecting these little people’s innocence for as long as possible is my obligation.

What goes in their little minds, comes out. 

How do you solve the media challenge?

I know some friends have no limits on it and that gives them lots of peace- what works for your family? How do you manage devices? Do your kids have their own tablets? How do you make decisions on what is and is not allowed?

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