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Media Safety for Children

In today's digital world, there is a variety of media devices and platforms that children are exposed to and regularly use. These include computers, tablets, smartphones, TV, mobile apps, video games, and social media networks. Media has a huge role in shaping how children think and feel, as well as affecting their health and safety. In moderation, media can be used responsibly and safely, as well as provide enriching and educational benefits. For example, quality TV programs and films can teach kids about the world, other cultures, and important values. On the other hand, media platforms and devices can be addictive, lower self-esteem, cause mental health conditions, and expose kids to dangers. The best ways to protect your kids from media harm and ensure that they're using media safely are monitoring their usage, creating guidelines for them to follow, and having conversations about online safety. 


When it comes to content that your child consumes, be aware of the age-appropriateness of the content and whether or not it's suitable for your kid. Check parental ratings for TV shows, movies, video games, and apps. For a full list of guidelines and ratings for these media forms, check out this resource from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). 


Parental ratings are a good place to start for determining what's appropriate for your child. But it is still recommended to pay close attention to what they're watching or listening to. It's also helpful to watch content together as a family so you can see how your child is responding to the content and take the opportunity to engage in conversations with them about their thoughts and emotions. 


With the growing number of digital apps and social media networks, it can be overwhelming as a parent to monitor your child's safety in using these. There are various social media and internet challenges and risks from online predators who target children and teens. Talk to your kids about following precautions and exercising proper judgment. Let them know that they should never share any personal information to people they don’t know and about the dangers of participating in harmful challenges. 


Social media can also impact children's mental health, especially if they compare themselves to others or become overly concerned about their image online. Communication is key to helping prevent negative feelings and behaviors from using social media. Remind your child that not everything they see on social media represents reality and encourage them to focus on their real-life interactions and activities. 


Aside from content and safety, how much time your child spends with media is very important. Too much screen time can be unhealthy and lead to problems such as obesity, distractions, poor academic performance, screen addiction, sleep issues, and delays in learning and social skills. That is why it is crucial to set limitations and boundaries for how much your child spends with electronic devices. Children should avoid using screen devices within one hour before they go to bed as the light from the devices can have a stimulating effect and make it harder for your child to sleep well. As recommended by the AAP, kids under 18 months should not be using any media and kids between 1 and 5 should be limited to one hour. 


For guidance on setting up media boundaries and limitations for your children, check out this Family Media Plan from the AAP. 


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