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Media Use Plans Can Help Your Family Stay Safe Online

Media Use Plans are not about rules. They are about making conscious decisions. Screen use is ubiquitous and it is starting at younger ages. Most children have access to a mobile device and majority start “using” them before 12 months of age. 

Many parents are making decisions about screens in the first year of their child’s life. Having a Family Media Use Plan means parents are making those decisions beforehand and are more likely to reflect a family’s values. 

Media Use Plans stress balance

Balance family time by carving out screen free meals. To ensure sufficient time for sleep, make a device curfew — shut down all devices an hour before bed and charge devices outside children’s bedrooms. Offline interests are important, so make time for exercise and being outdoors with your children for one hour each day. 

Media Use Plans stress parental involvement

Use trusted resources to determine if shows, games, and movies are age appropriate. You can bond with your child by watching shows with them and if there are topics or scenes that are more serious, you are there to discuss them. It’s important to know what social media sites are they using and who their friends are. Parents are role models — be conscious of your own digital use and turn off background TV to avoid distracted parenting. 

Media Use Plans stress safety and digital citizenship 

Help children set privacy settings by discussing what to share and what to keep private. Explain that people aren’t always who they say they are online, and that chatting with people you don’t know can be dangerous. Discuss cyber-bullying and what to do if you are on the receiving end or if you witness on-line bullying. Talk about sexting and how to respond if you’re asked for an inappropriate picture. Many teens that sext feel pressured into doing so. Remind children and teens that you should not forward a picture or message without the person’s approval. Finally, remind children and teens that images and messages they post aren’t easily erased and can affect how future employers or schools will view them later.

Corinn Cross, MD and Spokesperson, Council on Communications and Media, American Academy of Pediatrics, [email protected]

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