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Too Much Screen Time? Develop a Summer Family Media Plan

By Joan Rhodes
 | Jun 23, 2017

Family Media PlanU.S. schools are out for summer! It’s summer time and the living is easy! Or is it? 

Perhaps you have encountered the same challenge: From the moment our grandchildren wake up in the morning, they are clamoring for digital devices. From Peppa Pig to hours of texting and constant “selfies” during family vacations, children are using technology and social media more than ever.

The Pew Research Center reports that 86% of 18–29-year-olds use social media, which is probably no surprise to most parents and educators. Another recent national survey by the Erikson Institute reports that 85% of parents allow their children under 6 years old to use technology at home. Television, tablets, smartphones, and computers are now part of the typical early childhood experience.

A joint position statement issued by the National Association for the Education of Young Children and the Fred Rogers Center for Early Learning and Children’s Media at Saint Vincent College notes there is conflicting evidence related to the impact of technology on child development. Research indicates a strong relationship between passive media use and childhood obesity, delayed language development, behavioral issues, and irregular sleep patterns. However, research also suggests that digital resources, when designed to incorporate best practices for reading instruction, can be positive learning tools. So how do parents and educators proactively manage their children’s media and technology consumption?

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends the use of their interactive Family Media Use Plan tool, which takes a step-by-step approach to creating a personalized media use plan for families. Users are asked to consider each family member’s individual needs as they work through questions related to screen-free zones and times, device curfews, digital citizenship topics, and more. Once a plan is completed, it can be printed and shared.

The Media Time Calculator provides information on how much time each person spends on daily activities such as eating, exercise, sleep, and media use. While the tool is designed specifically for families, educators will find that working through the questions will help them address media use during the school day.

After giving the Family Media Use Plan tool a personal test-run, I have made some changes in how our family uses media with our grandchildren. We have a media curfew at meals and are making sure to balance media time with outdoor and other physical activities. These efforts are helping to make our summer a time to “live in the sunshine, swim the sea, drink the wild air” (as suggested by Ralph Waldo Emerson), with maybe a little dose of Peppa Pig!

Joan RhodesJoan Rhodes is an associate professor and chair of the Department of Teaching and Learning at Virginia Commonwealth University.

This article is part of a series from the International Literacy Association Technology in Literacy Education Special Interest Group (TILE-SIG).

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