If you’re anything like me, I’m glad 2016 is in the rear view mirror. I’m ready to start a new year. Like you, I’ve made a few new year’s goals. For starters, I plan to run a marathon in May. I spent all fall getting into shape, and now I’m officially in week 2 of my training! Hopefully my middle-aging body will hold up. As you set your goals for the new year, I’d like to ask you to consider how your media parenting is going. Chances are you’re already doing one or more of the habits I list below, but maybe there’s one among this list that you could do in order to better help your children benefit from media this year. So, without further ado, here are my top 5 media habits that every parent should think about adopting in 2017:
- Change your own media habits. Research shows that one of the strongest predictors of children’s media use is parents’ media use. If you’re on your phone a lot, it’s likely that your kids will be too. If you watch rated R movies, your kids will probably want to watch them too. Perhaps there is one program you could do without, one social media platform you could give up. Or maybe you spend a few minutes each day reading a book instead of watching reruns of Family Feud.
- Use media together with your child. During 2016 we started watching “Nature” on PBS on Wednesday nights with our 6-year-old. Last night we learned about animals that live in cold, snowy places. Not only do we get to learn right alongside our daughter, but we actually use it as a carrot to motivate her to get showered and ready for bed on time on Wednesday nights!
- Take phones out of the bedroom at night. One of the smartest things we’ve done as parents is require all phones to be in the living room at bedtime. We’re not necessarily worried that they’ll get into bad stuff on their phone at night. We’re more concerned about them getting enough sleep, and removing the temptation to stay up on the Internet at night seems to help.
- Read a book with your child. I admit it, this one is hard for me. I’ve been known to fall asleep in the middle of reading a book to my kids. I can only read Hop on Pop so many times. If it’s been awhile since you’ve read a book to your child, start with doing it once a week. I’d love to hear what you learn about your child and about how your child reacts to the experience.
- Talk with your child about media. Our children need to know what we think about our new president. They need to know what we think about movie trailers, about perfume commercials, and jokes made on sitcoms. They need to know your opinion about heavy stuff like pornography, as well as the light stuff like the latest song on Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood. Really, they just need to know you.
Please, please don’t tackle all these at once. You know as well as I do that parenting is hard and that it takes time. But if you can get one of these habits to stick in 2017, it will have been a successful media parenting year indeed.
Please share your media parenting goal for 2017. I’d love to hear what changes you’ll be making.