Everyone who reads my blog knows my philosophy: smart media is sincere, authentic content thatinfluences smart people in positive ways. I never really thought to define it before I was a mom.
Then I had a baby and everything changed. When my daughter first started speaking, I heard her humming some commercial jingle. I don’t remember which but I remember thinking, “holy shit, my kid is a sponge.” Everything from television commercials to Elmo had some kind of influence on her tiny little brain. I introduced her to Baby Einstein immediately and then I became a smart media mom.
Being a smart media parent is hard work, it takes dedication and a willingness to learn new things. How can you tell if you are a smart media mom?
You screen media before your child consumes it.
Data shows that exposure to violence, inappropriate sexuality and offensive language can have negative effects on our children. Extensive research by the American Pediatrics Association indicates that “media violence can contribute to aggressive behavior, desensitization to violence, nightmares, and fear of being harmed.”
For this reason, we screen and research the media our kids want to consume. When my kids are into a new video game, we find out what it is. When they are assigned a new book at school, I read it too. If they are interested in the latest blockbuster movie or up and coming artists, we are also interested. This keeps us in the loop and in touch with the things they are in touch with and that keeps me in touch with them.
You keep cellphone use on a tight leash
Most teens – 85 percent aged 15 to 17 – 69 percent of kids aged 11-14 and 31% aged and kids between 8-10- have cell phones. According to WebMD, twice as many children have cell phones today as in 2004.
Our household falls into the 11-14 bracket – middle school felt like the right time to give our kids the privilege. After-school obligations and extra curricular activities means we need to stay in touch.
However I have a lot of rules around this privilege:
- No phones during school hours
- No phones at the dinner table
- No phones in the bedroom overnight
- Parental locks and permissions must remain in place
- No new apps or game downloads without permission
- Grades slip or rules broken and no more phone
We monitor their usage and retain the right to examine their phones at any time we choose until the child is 18 years of age. We set very strict parental permissions that can not be adjusted without a password. So far, so good but, my eldest will be 14 in a month so check back with me on that.
You keep them from social media for as long as possible.
The rule in my house is simple, mom and dad MUST be your friend or the social media account is deleted. That means it is irrelevant if I want to be on Instagram or not. My daughter did and I had no reasonable argument why she couldn’t, so I downloaded it and now we have a new way of communicating.
Like anything else there are rules:
- No over sharing
- No identifying information
- No follows from people you don’t know in real life (except celebrities)
- No suggestive language, pictures or other media
- No bullying
I retain the right to change, add to, or alter those rules at will, if they don’t like it, they lose phone privileges and all accounts are deleted.
You keep the lines of communication open
No matter how hard you try to screen and regulate your kid’s media consumption, they will have access to ALL of the information anyway and it is rarely accurate. Therefore, it’s important to be realistic. Talk to your kids as often as possible about what they might be seeing and hearing in the great, big world out there.
They will roll their eyes at you but don’t be deterred. Parents, your voice must be the loudest voice in their heads. You must give them the tools they need to make sense of what is going on in the world around them.
We will be our children’s first and greatest influence, they will look to us for guidance first and we must fight peer pressure and the constant media barrage aimed at them. We can not fail them.
If you are a smart media parent, how do you help your kids navigate the digital world? What’s on your smart media checklist?