When the kids are home for summer, you probably don't want them to overdo the electronic entertainment -- TV, videogames, computer. How can you make sure their summer days include active time, too?
It's important for kids' physical and social development to spend lots of time in active, engaged activities like swimming, playing tag, rolling down a grassy hill -- even day-dreaming. But summer's a time for relaxing so you can renegotiate your time limits, doling out videogame time as an incentive for doing more chores or allowing 10 minutes of game time for every 50 pages they read in a book. Learn how to create a Healthy Media Diet so your kids get a balance of electronic entertainment and old-fashioned summer fun.
Use media together and talk about what you see, hear, and read.
Whenever you can, watch, play, listen, and surf with your kids. Talk about the content. When you can't be there, ask them about the media they've used. Practice media literacy - help kids question and analyze media messages by sharing your values. Let them know how you feel about solving problems with violence, stereotyping people, selling products using sex or cartoon characters, or advertising to kids in schools or movie theaters. Help kids connect what they learn in the media to events and other activities in which they're involved, like playing sports and creating art, in order to broaden their understanding of the world.
Be a role model.
When kids are around, set an example by using media the way you want them to use it. Don't bring cell phones and Blackberries to the dinner table, turn the TV off when it's not actively being watched. Use a VCR or TiVo™ to record shows that may be inappropriate for your kids to watch - even the news - and watch them at a later time when kids are not around.
Keep an eye on the clock
Media is fun and our kids love it. But kids can have too much of a good thing. Keep an eye on how long kids spend online, in front of the TV, watching movies, playing video games. The secret to healthy media use is to establish time limits and stick to them -- before your kids turn on and tune in.