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Family Screen Time
Media and technology will continue to be an integral part of our lives. Parents can teach their children the skills to make mindful media decisions by focusing on the why, how, and when of media use.
December 31, 2020

New Year’s Resolution: Family Screen Time

The start of a new year is a good time to consider a plan on how to incorporate things that are important to us, such as a healthier lifestyle. Family-oriented new year’s resolutions are a great way for parents to role model and teach their children about family values, beliefs, and goals.

Dr. Sheri Nsamenang, clinical and health psychologist in the Children’s Exercise and Nutrition Centre at McMaster Children’s Hospital, shares some recommendations for setting family resolutions around healthy screen time.

Focus less on time and more on values

Dr. Sheri Nsamenang

Dr. Sheri Nsamenang

“A hot-button issue for parents is around media and screen time,” says Nsamenang. “My advice to parents around making resolutions around the family’s media use is to focus less on screen time, and shift the focus to family values around media use. Media and technology will continue to be an integral part of our lives and parents can teach their children the skills to make mindful media decisions by focusing on the why, how, and when of media use.”

The why

“In regards to the why of media use, parents can consider the degree to which media will be used for educational or recreational purposes and aim to strike a balance between them. In general, media use that has age-appropriate content, quality content, and serves as a tool to support the transfer of knowledge to real life, are important things to consider when selecting educational media.”

The how

“Decisions around the how of media use should involve identifying ways to balance individual and joint family media use between parents and their children. Joint media use is encouraged. It can take the form of viewing or using media together, at the same time, or asking questions to draw meaning from the media and incorporate it into daily life. For example, learning new things or having conversations about the similarity or differences from what was consumed in media versus real life.”

The when

“Things to consider about the when of media use are screen-free times like bedtime and meal times, and screen-free zones such as the dining area, kitchen and bedroom. These limits can help support additional aspects of family health that parents value such as family time, chores, and exercise.”

The family media plan is a great resource to support families to set SMART goals for media use. MediaSmarts is another good resource on many topics related to media use such as cyberbullying, sexting, and body image.

Personal resolution – practicing resilience

“After a year like 2020, where there were numerous uncertainties, I have thought hard about what I want to work on in 2021. My personal goal for 2021 is to adopt a mindset that welcomes adversity. To do this, my plan is to actively work on saving acts of self-care, self-compassion, and gratitude in my mental health bank. One actionable goal in this regard, is to read one book per month on a resilience topic, and then practice what I learn.”

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