A Message from the Head of Middle Years

6 October 2017

Over the holiday break my family and I spent time at a destination with no Wifi or phone service. For me, it was pure heaven, but my four teenagers found it a little challenging after a time. This made me think about the time we all spend in front of screens and how we can achieve balance in our lives. The article (below) by Caroline Knorr from Common Sense Media relating media time to a healthy diet, ensuring all types of media are 'consumed' in moderation, really resonated with me. Although it talks about parents setting the boundaries for their children, it made me think that the first step is to set the example. We as adults need to ensure that we follow the rules we set and not be exempt from them. We too need a healthy media diet.

SERVING A HEALTHY FAMILY MEDIA DIET

Many parents struggle with exactly how much screen time is okay for their children. Is a half-hour TV show okay but a full-length movie bad? How much gaming should you allow when your children also use their computer for homework? Does Wikipedia count as reading? And when does a passion for, say, video games become problematic?

The truth is, there is no magic formula. And just as every family differs in what they eat, when they eat and what they like, a healthy media diet is different for every family. The key is making sure that the things that are important to your family are fairly balanced over the long term.

A healthy media diet balances activities (games, social media, TV), time (fifteen minutes? three hours?) and choices (YouTube, Minecraft, “Star Wars”) with offline activities (sports, face-to-face conversations, hobbies).

  1. Find balance. Instead of counting daily screen-time minutes, aim for balance throughout the week. Help your children plan a week that includes stuff they have to do and stuff they like to do, such as schoolwork, activities, chores, reading, family time and TV or gaming. Decide on limits and behaviour using a Family Media Agreement.
  2. Walk the walk. Put your own devices away while driving, at mealtimes and during important conversations. Children learn habits from the adults around them.
  3. Talk about it. Ask questions about their favourite games, shows and characters. Discuss ideas and issues they read about or learn about through a TV show or a game. This is an opportunity for bonding, learning and sharing your values.
  4. Create tech-free zones. Set rules that fit your family, such as no devices during dinner, no social media during homework or all screens off before bedtime. Some families have a central spot for charging and all devices must remain there after bedtime.
  5. Check ratings. Choose age-appropriate, high-quality media and technology for your children.

Mrs Jo Matherson
Head of Middle Years

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