Media or Not to Media – Part 2

How do you determine how much media to allow your child to engage in, or passively watch in a day? This answer is different for each child in each family. Children with learning challenges, ADD/ADHD, and those on the Autistic Spectrum can be more sensitive neurodevelopmentally and therefore it is even more imperative that parents with these children think carefully about when, what and how much media to allow in their lives.

Here are 6 tips on how to assess this and how to find your answer to the question –

Should I let my child engage in media and how much?

  1. Determine if you child is overwhelmed, do they have a learning disability that makes academics harder,  is school stressful even if he/she does well? If they are, they may be using media as both escape and distraction. A limited amount of time – 30 minutes max can provide the “down time.”
  2. Does your child have other outlets? Do they play outside, move around in physical activity, read books, knit, craft, play games, Legos, building, make up games on their own? If they cannot do any of these things and their only “down time” is media, then you are more in escape category. Encourage these other activities which stimulate brain and body development as well creativity and self-sufficiency.
  3. What is your child’s behavior like after media time? Is he/she crankier, more combative with siblings or you or he/she calmer? My kids always argued more after media time, once I stopped TV time, the arguing nearly disappeared and they began to play together as allies. If this is the case in your home, then media time is not serving them and even though they “want” it, your children could benefit from learning other ways to de-stress that are truly less stressful on their bodies.
  4. Are you giving them media time for you or for them? If you just want them occupied or you are doing it because everyone else does, consider taking the time to teach, model or provide them alternatives that will empower them to be creative and engaged with their imagination and environment. Learning to be bored and get oneself out of boredom without electronics is a valuable lifelong skill.
  5. Can they think about what they are watching/doing? Can they talk and discuss what they are watching – find nuances, guess what the commercials are about, see things that are out of sinc or don’t make sense? By engaging your child about their media involvement, it can become another tool for learning to think, discern and discover and another way for you to connect with your child.
  6. Is media a need for them or a want? If they crave it and without it there are major tantrums, they feel they just “cannot” live without it, then you are absolutely in the escape category. Gaming addiction is becoming a huge issue, especially among youth and young adults. While it might provide some relief from daily stresses and some “hand-eye” coordination practice for short periods, once it is a must in someone’s mind, it is important to take steps not to allow the situation to develop into an addiction that can affect functioning, mood and relationships in the future.

How do you stop or redirect an excessive or “escapist” media habit?

  1. Introduce new options. Provide materials for projects, hobbies, and developing interests.
  2. Play with your child quietly building, creating “lands” for dolls or action figures, worlds of couch cushions and blankets, counting flowers in the garden, cooking, cutting out pictures and making family dream collages,take out a board game and make up new rules, etc.
  3. Model and encourage through interaction the use of their own imagination and the experience of relaxation that comes with be fully engaged in an activity.
  4. Or together just be, daydream, listen to music – not in an earbud but in a room.

Another Idea the Really Works: Create a Boredom List

Make a list of possibilities you come up with together so they have a go to list – I call it the Boredom List. Send them to that often so they become empowered to find their own entertainment and are not dependent on you or electronics to “make them happy.”

Media in itself is not “bad,” it is how it is used or misused that will determine whether it is an asset in your child’s life. As a parent we must explore the research and learn what we can from others. Ultimately we turn to our own intuition and trust the wisdom of our own hearts to know what is best in our families.

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