Parents: The New Media Mentors

Being a parent means that you hold many roles. You are not only a caregiver but also a cook, teacher, nurse and much more. One of those roles includes being an example. Children are often described as being like sponges, able to absorb and learn things that are and aren’t explicitly taught. One of those things is how media is used in everyday life. There are many different opportunities for parents to show children how to be a good digital citizen. Digital citizenship is how we act and how we use technology in our lives. Being a good digital citizen means that we act civil online. That means talking to others with respect when using technology, especially on social media sites. Digital Citizenship also includes sharing and respecting those who have differing positions and ideas. It means being respectful with how technology is used in public and open spaces. Below are four tips to help you become a media mentor and provide an example of digital citizenship for the children in your life.

1. Model balanced media habits

Balance can be difficult to obtain in any section of our lives. From determining what activities to participate in after a long day of work to figuring out how to eat a balanced meal, we seek to find balance in all that we do. One of the things that needs balance the most is the way in which we consume and use media. This balance can be found by fostering media awareness. This includes looking for opportunities to unplug and to keep your focus on your relationships and those who are physically around you. It also includes a balance of the type of media we engage in, for example, watching TV and movies both for educational and recreational purposes. Balance in media use shows children the importance of focusing on being present and allows media use to become something more than just mindless scrolling or constant binge-watching.

2. Co-engage with media

One of the best ways that parents can teach media habits is to consume media together with your children. This includes, but is not limited to watching TV with your children, asking them questions about their online activity, playing video games with them, etc. Co-engaging with children can help them learn skills like how to mediate what is real in the media and what is not. For example, a young girl who is watching a romance movie with her mother can engage in conversation about how the expectations for the relationship are not real or how the timeline of the relationship isn’t healthy. Co-engaging in media allows for parents and children to have conversations they may not have otherwise and can become one of the best ways to model healthy media habits.

3. Discuss media related best practices

Parents can help children learn what is right and what isn’t by talking to them about it. The same way a child learns that they should say please and thank you is the same way children will learn media related best practices. These practices have general rules and guidelines but are enforced and different for each family. Some examples of best practices might be:

  • Talking to someone who is face to face with you is more important than answering a text message.
  • Don’t talk to strangers online, and if anyone makes you feel uncomfortable report it.
  • Being respectful of others’ opinions, even if they aren’t the same as yours.

Although this is not an inclusive list, it gives an idea of what parents might choose to set as best practices for media usage in their family.

4. Set limits on how/ when/ where technology & media are used

The adage of “do what I say, not what I do” is very relevant when learning how to set and enforce limits on technology. As children see their parents setting limits in their own use, they may be more likely to follow the example and respect the limits set by the family. It is important to recognize that these limits will be very unique to each family. For some families, it may mean limiting media use to certain places in the home and for others it may be limiting time. Whatever limits are set, make sure that they are followed by parents. It is hard for a child to learn what an appropriate limit is when they see one thing, but are told to do another.

Becoming a media mentor can seem like a big task to take on. The most important thing to remember is that it starts with being an example. To become a media mentor means to show that you, as an adult, are practicing good media habits. Children learn from what they see, so take a minute to become more self-aware about how you are currently using media, and resolve to be an example for those around you, especially your children.


This research and information was provided by Tasha Killian, MFHD

References:

Common Sense Media Inc. (2016, May 03). Technology Addiction: Concern, Controversy, and Finding Balance | Common Sense Media. Retrieved from https://www.commonsensemedia.org/research/technology-addiction-concern-controversy-and-finding-balance

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