Resources and discussion for parents, teachers and young people navigating the evolving landscape of the digital world.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

AAP Media Use Guidelines Updated!

So I have a lot of catching up to do...

My growing collection
I just discovered an unfinished draft of a post I began writing last spring entitled, "Teens, Social Media, and Books That Make Me Want to Throw ALL THE PHONES into the Ocean." Wow. Seems pretty intense, but it was definitely how I was feeling after reading a few new books that I added to my collection. Tonight, Sam and I are hosting a post-film Q&A for Screenagers again, so I wanted to refresh my memory on some things, lest I let my passion overrule reason. Today, I put the books I keep in my office at school into a pile and snapped a photo. Can you guess which ones stirred up the most passionate responses? Actually, the hardest one to see here (sideways) is probably what prompted me to write that title back in April. Nancy Jo Sales' American Girls. I super highly recommend the book, don't get me wrong. (I recommend all of these!) But I think I was in a particularly tender place as a parent of teenage girls, and we were in Maui for Spring Break, and a lot of people at the beach were on their devices, and I could see the ocean RIGHT THERE. :)

New Media Recommendations

Anyway, more importantly right now, I need to share the newest guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatrics! We've been talking about these for a while, even if we forgot to write about them. Last year the AAP sort of "fast-tracked" a revision of the screen time guidelines they published several years ago. What we've all learned since that time is that not all screen time is alike, and hard and fast time limits don't accurately address the concerns we have about what kids are actually DOING while on screens. What they've come up with, and just published a few weeks ago, is sooooo helpful! While you can read more in-depth reports here and here, and Forbes actually did a pretty great review of the whole thing here, what I'm most excited to share with you are the new online tools to help you craft your family's Media Use Plan.

The Media Use Plan

Media Time Calculator
I DID THIS AT MY HOUSE! I wanted to try out the tools myself, and I have to say I came away very impressed. There are some really useful things here. First, you'll see a Media Time Calculator. This helpful tool allows you to put in your children's names and ages, and then you'll be taken to a timeline where the recommended hours of sleep and exercise are already input for you. As you add things to your child's day, like school hours, activities, chores, and family/meal times, you can see the huge chunk of media/screen time start to shrink. It's handy to begin here so you and your kids can begin thinking about how much time they actually spend doing certain things during their average day. What I found most helpful about it, as I experienced a series of eyerolls from my teenagers, was that I could ask questions like, "what seems like a reasonable amount of time for _____ to you?" And we could start from there.

The second part is the actual Family Media Plan. Here, you are walked through a series of options to select and choose as you craft your family's "rules" together. There are helpful links to current research within the sections, and if you actually have your child in the driver's seat on clicking the buttons and asking the questions, all the better. Together, you get to discuss and decide on:

  1. Screen Free Zones - where are they in your house? Bedrooms? The dinner table? Do you want to add a few of your own, like the car, or specify only one screen at a time, like no phones when we're all on the couch watching a movie? Customize at will!
  2. Screen Free Times - at what times of day are electronics off limits?
  3. Device Curfews - everyone's favorite! What time do we turn them off? Where do they live at night while they're charging?
  4. Choose & Diversity Your Media - tons of options for what to do when you have recreational screen time. PLUS, this is a good place to insert a conversation about the content of the media you consume.
  5. Balancing Online & Off-line Time - in this section you get to specifically talk about what you'll have time for when you decrease screen time.
  6. Manners Matter - even if it feels like you are repeating yourself, it's nice to have a REASON to reiterate your guidelines and expectations for behavior. Check all the boxes, but chat about each one. Then decide if that really covers it, or if you need more specific rules. In my house, for example, I'm adding a rule about digital manners when there are guests in our home, and asking permission before photographing and/or sharing things about others online.
  7. Digital Citizenship - another section where it's easy to check all the boxes, but please take the time to have a conversation about what these things actually look like in action.
  8. Safety First - digital rules for privacy and safety.
  9. Sleep & Exercise - make a commitment!
When you're done, you'll have a printable family plan that you can all sign and hold each other accountable to. I'm not saying this is going to be easy in practice, but the AAP has sure done their work to provide you with the most current information, and the easiest tools to help you put good healthy media habits into practice. 

My best advice would be to take your time, spread the conversation out over multiple sit-downs, and really dig into each section in a thoughtful manner. At the same time, in our busy households, it wouldn't be hard to do this whole thing in 15 minutes and be done with it. If that's all the time you have, seize it! But the value really comes in the conversation, the verbal agreement you all make with each other, and the time to express opinions, disagreements, compromises, and ownership of the rules. If you need to put your plan together quickly, do it, but realize you'll need to come back to it as your children grow and mature, and you might find after a couple weeks that the rules you thought would be so easy to follow and enforce need some realistic tweaking.

This isn't a one and done proposition. It's an ongoing conversation from which your family will benefit in the long run.

Let us know how it goes!

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