“Television and other entertainment media should be avoided for infants and children under age 2. Children and teens should engage with entertainment media for no more than one or two hours per day, and that should be high-quality content.” – American Academy of Pediatrics
The question is, what is high-quality content? With the growing number of programs and apps out there, it can be a daunting task for parents to figure out which ones should be avoided and which ones are okay. Although nothing beats a personal evaluation based on our own intimate knowledge of what our children can handle, sometimes there is just too much out there for us to physically check everything thoroughly. Thankfully, there are sites that help us sift through the masses… (there will be others, feel free to share them)
Parental Guidance: Commonsense Media
Commonsense Media is a great site that reviews music, books, TV, movies, apps, websites and games. It is a terrific handy reference to check if you want to get a quick check on whether a particular media is appropriate for your child. Each review offers a 1-5 rating on:
- positive messages
- positive role models
- drinking, drugs and smoking
There is also a highlight on contentious elements that parents should be aware of. Commonsense Media also offers a recommended viewing age range:
- red – inappropriate
- yellow – pause; parents need to know their children and decide if is appropriate or not appropriate for their child
- green – age-appropriate
As well as a Commonsense Media rating, parents and children are allowed to offer their reviews as well so you can also take a look at what other families have to say about a particular movie, game, or book.
Commonsense Media also contains a variety of other articles and information on pertinent issues, such as cyberbullying, screen time, digital citizenship and privacy and internet safety. For parents struggling to keep up with the advancing pace of technology and our children’s use of it, this is a great place to start learning more about it.
Parental Guidance: ESRB – Entertainment Software Rating Board
With so many digital games available, ESRB can help you weed out the inappropriate games from the “safe” and “maybes”. Although I still prefer the rating system from Commonsense Media, when it comes to digital games, ESRB offers a much more comprehensive games listing. Some of the games I’ve looked up don’t appear on Commonsense Media but are listed on ESRB.
Parental Guidance Resources of Early Learning
Under Resources of Early Learning, you can find an excellent series of educational playlists with teaching videos and interactive games for children age 3 to 5 years old. This site is also a terrific place for new parents searching for interactive learning activities they can provides their babies and toddlers.
Parental Guidance for Zero to Three
For parents with children under three, Zero to Three helps to navigate that murky territory of young children and digital devices. They offer research-based guidelines on using screens for children under three to help parents make informed decisions about the quantity and quality of screen time offered to their children.
- Research-Based Guidelines for Screen Use for Children Under 3 Years Old
- Using Screen Media With Young Children
- Screen Time FAQs
Take Home Messages for Zero to Three (also applicable for older children too):
- Although there is no recommendation on just how much screen time you can allow, you do need to set limits to give your children time for the real world.
- Get involved – participate and interact with your child during screen time to maximise learning.
- Be selective about content – not all screen time is equal – choose content that promotes learning appropriate for your child’s level of development.
- Avoid background TV – if no one is watching, turn it off.
- No screen before bedtime. No screens in bedrooms.
- Monkey see, monkey do – so limit your own screen use when your children are present.
Bottom Line for Parents
For some of us, the rapidly changing scene of technology may be intimidating but it is here to stay. We may be slower than our children when it comes to getting the hang of it but that doesn’t mean we can’t learn. Pay attention to what your children are doing online. Be aware of what’s out there. Help your child maintain a balance between the virtual reality and the real world.