We’ve come a long way from my early concerns about young children and screen time. My initial knee-jerk attitude that TV is evil has matured into a more nuanced one.
There’s no reason for children under 2 to watch television. In my opinion, some touch screen apps may be appropriate for toddlers, in a very limited way, since they are interactive and respond to the child’s actions. Older children can consume film and TV shows within reason, but I strongly encourage parents to watch with them to make for a shared and interactive experience. I also think that it’s important that parents preview the media that their children will consume to make sure that it’s appropriate and that any lessons not in keeping with family values are discussed. Advertisements should be limited and any that are shown should be explained as an attempt to sell and not a reflection of truth.
My children are 9 years old. They are allowed 2 hours of screen time on each weekend day. On rare occasions, if they’re done with homework and we have some time before bedtime, we’ll watch a movie together on weekday evenings. They are also allowed unlimited screen time to research and write their independent study projects, which are usually worked on in Google Docs.
There are occasions on which M and J want to watch a show or movie on Netflix that I haven’t yet seen. Very rarely, we go to the movies to watch a new release. My kids will learn about a new kids’ website at school and ask if they can visit it. In these cases, I turn to Common Sense Media. This website and its associated app are a goldmine of practical information for parents.
When you search for a book, show, game, or movie, the resulting list includes an age appropriateness rating for each result. This rating isn’t the one given by the movie/game studio or publisher, but is based on developmental criteria and the specifics of the content of the media.
More detail is available for each item, including commentary about themes that might be worth discussing with your child. You can also read reviews and comments from both parents and children.
I recently turned to Common Sense Media when it occurred to me that my children might be old enough for Who Framed Roger Rabbit. I hadn’t seen the movie in 18 years and couldn’t remember how overt its sexual content was. The review’s first sentence answered my question: “Parents need to know that some of the nuances of the storyline and much of the film’s innuendo-laden humor will go right over children’s heads.” Although the site recommended the movie for children 10 and up, I felt confident that my daughters could handle it. And they did. They loved it. They caught onto some of the darkness in the storyline, but completed missed the innuendo in the midst of all the slapstick. There was a teeny bit of language I could have done without, but the Common Sense Media review ratings had warned me of that.
If you haven’t visited the site before, I strongly recommend a visit to Common Sense Media at commonsensemedia.org. I wouldn’t do without it.