Putting Your Kids on a Media Diet
Don't let your kids sit in front of a screen all day. Put them on a healthy media diet.
The calendar has great news for kids and mixed news for parents. Summer is almost here, which means kids will be home from school. For parents this can bring on extra challenges, especially now that kids have so many electronic indoor diversions that can entertain and educate but also bring on certain risks.
There are a lot of reasons parents should limit the amount of time their kids spend online, watching TV or playing video games. These include the risks associated with interacting with strangers, the negative messages from some of the media and the negative health effects of too much screen time and not enough outdoor activity.
Let’s start with the Internet. The vast majority of U.S. homes with children now have a broadband connection, which means it’s easy for kids to go online to check and update their profiles on MySpace, Facebook and other social networks or to surf the web and exchange instant messages with friends. There is nothing wrong with any of these activities as long as they’re done in moderation and with reasonable safety guidelines. To that end, kids should be reminded to:
- Be careful what they post: Avoid posting provocative or sexually suggestive photos, avoid personal information that could allow a stranger to contact them, as well as anything that could prove embarrassing now or in the future.
- Mind their manners: Kids should be reminded to treat others online respectfully. It turns out that kids who harass others are also more likely to be victims of cyberbullying.
- Don’t talk about sex with strangers: I know this seems obvious but research at the University of New Hampshire’s Crimes Against Children Research Center has found a strong correlation between this activity and reports of victimization.
- And, of course, children should be reminded not to get together with strangers they meet online. If such a meeting is to take place, it should be in a public place and you should bring others along such as a parent or a group of friends.
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