The screen time conversation is at a turning point. Since stay-at-home orders have been in place, parents, caregivers, and experts have been re-evaluating their position on how kids use digital media. Dr. Jody sat down with Common Sense Media’s New York Director, Samira Sine to discuss how you can transition from worrying about screen time to embracing the time your kids spend online as a positive element of their day. HOMER has coined a new term for this: Mindful Media. Mindful Media is the new screen time—built on making conscious online choices for your kids.
Keep reading as Dr. Jody shares our P-L-A-Y framework, designed to help you make those tough (smart) calls.
Many of us (myself included) are still adjusting to working from home and having our kids at home during the day. My kids are now using screen time for online learning, connecting with family and loved ones, and— to be honest—as a safe distraction when I need to get things done!
EMBRACING MINDFUL MEDIA
Instead of screen time, let’s start embracing Mindful Media; rather than worrying about the amount of time our kids are spending on screen as the only consideration, we can use that energy to make conscious decisions about their media intake. The time our kids spend in front of screens has become more about quality than quantity; as Samira said during our conversation, “Not all screen time is created equal.”
So how do we as parents and caregivers determine what is good screen time? (Because right now, my kids are getting a whole lot of it.) We came up with the P-L-A-Y Framework: a quick and easy guide to help you make smart media decisions for your children.
THE PLAY FRAMEWORK
Next time you’re umm-ing and ahh-ing about giving your child a device, use P-L-A-Y to help you be mindful about the media choices you’re making.
P – Purpose
There are many valid reasons for handing over a screen to your child. It could be to keep them entertained, to give them an opportunity to connect with family and friends, to assist in their schoolwork, to help them wind down at night, or to keep them safely occupied while you cook dinner. The list goes on! Whatever the purpose might be, giving your kids a screen can be an opportunity to give them a positive experience—one that is enriching, engaging, and prepares them for the future.
When you’re giving your child a device, think about whether the type of media you are putting on that device matches up with the intended purpose.
We often get stuck on the idea that every screen experience has to be educational. But think about it this way—experts estimate that 65% of kids will have jobs that don’t currently exist. So even if the purpose of giving your child a screen doesn’t have direct learning value, you can feel good that your child is learning 21st-century skills that will set them up for 21st-century jobs.
L – Learning Value
There are so many rich, entertaining apps and digital experiences that you can find for your children… even if the purpose is simply to keep them entertained. When you find brands you trust—like PBS, Sesame Street, and HOMER—you can confidently hand your child a screen knowing they will be learning while having fun! As I mentioned in the interview, Common Sense Media is a great resource for this. They’ve done a lot of the legwork for parents—I’ve personally found them to be a lifesaver with my kids!
A – Appropriateness
Deciding whether an app or digital experience is appropriate for your child can seem daunting, but it doesn’t need to be difficult. Here are a couple of things to think about:
- Is it appropriate for their age? Common Sense Media is a great tool for finding age-appropriate resources that are safe for your kids.
- Will they engage with it? For example, will it make them giggle? Get up and dance? Try out a new word?
- Is it personalized to them? Does it appeal to their individual interests and learning needs, or encourage them to look at the world in a new way?
- Is it going to be a positive experience? Keep in mind what makes them feel confident, and what might make them feel scared or upset.
Y – YES!
YES! You can use screens – they aren’t designed to ruin your child’s future. In fact, Samira from Common Sense Media emphasizes that screens can help bring kids comfort. They can be tools that you use together as a family and can help kids get creative and find things that they enjoy. There’s no need to feel guilty about your kids spending time with screens, especially if you are using the P-L-A-Y Framework to help you embrace Mindful Media.
If you want to check out my full conversation with Samira, you can watch the video here.
Hope you enjoy P-L-A-Ying with your kids!
Dr. Jody LeVos
VP of Childhood and Family Development, HOMER