That bleary-eyed look, the toss of the head, the finger wag demonstrating an understanding of what's hip to-day. Any parent with children under the age of 18 will tell you they know the ‘Look'. It's the smeary, weary glaze of too much media consumption.
According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, the average American child consumes a whopping ten hours and forty-five minutes of media a day. In a recent press release, they report that this happens in seven and one-half hours "because they spend so much of that time ‘media multitasking' (using more than one medium at a time)."
Call me old-fashioned, but I refuse to hook a DVD player to the back of the driver's seat just so I can enjoy a bit of peace and quiet on the five-hour ride to Grandma's. It's about the only place on Earth where you don't have a monitor (with the exception of the GPS). The result? My kids actually saw the landscape through which we drove this summer: from Germany to Austria to Italy they realized there are mountains, hills and valleys. With a screen to look at instead, I doubt they would have noticed.
Occasionally, I find myself quoting various media studies to let my kids know how incredibly lucky they are to have brains unscathed by hours of senseless staring.
They usually don't share my appreciation, but I know somewhere in their heads are a few grey cells doing a high-five to the beat of my clapping them outdoors.
Every school year, we put our kids on a media diet. No television during the week; week-day video games only on special occasions.
To my tween daughter's plea to buy a mobile, I say:
"You get a cell phone when your brain seals."
That would be in about one year.
Same thing for Red Bull, the turbo-charging energy drink that so many celebs sling back: she's just got.to.have.it.
Yeah, like a hole in your head.
So we agreed we'd pop a Bull on her twelfth birthday. Again, "When your brain seals."
It seems I've been saying that a lot lately. As if staving off the inevitable break from innocent to knowing will allow my children to be kids for just one more day. We know they're watching YouTube at the neighbor's house. I couldn't prevent my son from watching a nineteen-year-old competitive motorcyclist crash to his death because, again, he saw it on the neighbor's sport channel. So I send them to Internet safety classes, slap on parental controls and pray they'll make it to eighteen without too many porn site visits.
What else we can do to ensure our kids are safe? Emulate some good media practices ourselves.
"Power to the Parent," is a new initiative by Common Sense Media that including tips and advice on how to manage children's media consumption. You can find the tips themselves at www.commonsense.com. As they say, "[Common Sense Media] exist because our kids are growing up in a culture that profoundly impacts their physical, social, and emotional well-being."
Desensitization happens faster than you can say, "Red Bull."
We can't always be there when our kids are in front of any number of screens. But we can educate them, be role-models and remain aware.
GreatSchools is a national nonprofit that inspires and guides parents to become effective champions of their children's education at home and in their communities. Parents turn to us to find the right schools for their children, to get practical advice and information that will help them raise successful, college-ready kids, and to support the schools in their communities. Founded in 1998, GreatSchools reaches more than 37 million people each year - approximately one-in-three American families with school-age children. With profiles of 200,000 public, public charter, and private schools serving students from Pre-K through high school and more than 800,000 parent ratings and reviews of schools, GreatSchools is the most comprehensive source of information on school quality today. For more information, visit www.greatschools.org.
About Common Sense Media
Common Sense Media is dedicated to improving the lives of kids and families by providing the trustworthy information, education, and independent voice they need to thrive in a world of media and technology. We exist because our kids are growing up in a culture that profoundly impacts their physical, social, and emotional well-being. We provide families with the advice and media reviews they need in order to make the best choices for their children. Through our education programs and policy efforts, Common Sense Media empowers parents, educators, and young people to become knowledgeable and responsible digital citizens. For more information, go to:
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