Family Best Practices for Using Technology


Learning Objectives
  • Use the Three C's when using technology with children ages 3-5.
  • Create media-rich environments that help children become accustomed to and proficient with various types of media.
  • Discover best practices for using technology as a family with young children.
  • Identify quality resources to support the use of technology by early learners.


A Healthy Dose of Media 

Remember the Food Pyramid? The United States Department of Agriculture launched this initiative over a hundred years ago to establish guidance for families on food groups and household measures. It started as Food For Young Children in 1916 and morphed over the years to a wheel, a pyramid, and finally to its current form - My Plate. What stayed the same was the purpose of these guidelines: to empower Americans to make healthy food choices for living well. 

It is true that moderation is the key to the consumption of many things - sugary treats, starchy sides, and fatty portions are best in small doses. Every once in a while, we can treat ourselves. What is most important is that we continue to consume foods high in protein, vitamins, antioxidants, and fiber. Luckily for us all, there are guidelines for this and we all have access to them. Many of us learned them in school.

Wouldn't it be great if there were similar guidelines for screen time or media use? The good news is that there are guidelines. The bad news is that these guidelines are not as prevalent as those about what we should eat, though a child's media consumption is as important to growth and development as their diet. 

Kids' Media Consumption and Family Planning

Media surrounds us, and while some is unavoidable, families do have options for controlling how long kids are on a screen. And it isn't just the time on a screen that matters; it's also what's on the screen. 

Wired Magazine's Food Pyramid for Kids' Media Comsumption is one tool for families who are trying to find the best balance. It is unrealistic to ask familes to avoid all media, and unwise to say anything goes, but these guidelines are a way to start deciding what is best for your household. Read the article and then answer these questions thinking about the ages of the kids in your household.



Reflecting on Your Learning
  1. Are any of these already enforced in your household? What made you decide to introduce it as a guideline for your family?
  2. Which of these guidelines was most suprising to you. Why?
  3. Choose one of the guidelines to start enforcing. Think about how you will introduce it and model it. Post your answers to this question in the Early Learning Open Space group Discussion. Look for the Kids' Media Consumption post and reply and respond to other participants' answers.
  4. Teachers: How will you share this information with parents?


Healthy and Balanced Media MEALS

When early learners see the adults they trust and listen to engaged in an activity, it is normal for them to want to do the same. Talking on a phone, using a computer, and laughing at a television show are all actions they may see and replicate. The frustration for many is that adults too often follow the "do as I say, and not as I do" mantra. In other words, we want to continue our behaviors without them influencing our children.

Common Sense Media and the Center for Early Learning at the Silicon Valley Community Foundation teamed up to create a playbook for adults and their kids to follow for a better outcome: Living and Learning Well in a Digital World: A Grownups Guide to Using Technology with Young Children.

This guidebook uses the acronym MEALS to help parents and other caregivers of children at various ages use media in a healthy and balanced way.

M - Model

E - Engage

A - Adjust

L - Limit

S - Share and Support

Click the link to the guide and read pages 4-11. Then read the pages that include the ages that correspond with the ages of the children in your home. (A Spanish version is available). Answer the questions that follow.


Reflecting on Your Learning
  1. Create a MEAL plan for your family. If you have more than one child, how can you incorporate the right MEAL to benefit all ages? 
  2. Have you witnessed any signs of unhealthy use of media. What intervention will you use?
  3. What are your habits with media? Write down three things you can do differently to model appropriate use for your child. Share your answer in the Early Learning Open Space group Discussion. Post your reply in the thread titled Media Habits. Respond to other participatnts' posts.
  4. Teachers: How will you share this information with parents?


Creating Your Media Menu

There are great resources for you and your child to view, play, and experience together. Here are just a few guides to help you and your family find the resources that deliver the right balance of fun and learning and encourage child and adult interaction:

  • What is INFOhio? INFOhio provides quality digital content for all Ohio students, teachers and families at no cost. Help families learn more about INFOhio, its resources, and website. Share this video in an email or newsletter to let parents know about the resources and tools available for use at home. 
  • INFOhio Early Learning Portal: Over 50 websites, videos, and apps aligned to the Ohio Early Learning Standards chosen and evaluated by teachers and librarians; most are free, while a few have a small cost. Be sure to use the INFOhio Early Learning Portal Rubric to help you evaluate the media you use with your child. 
  • Common Sense Media: Review of movies, televisions shows, video games, websites, apps and more; customize the reviews by creating an account for your family.
  • Tap, Click, Read App Guide: List of app sites where families can find apps reviewed and appropriate for early learners.
  • Ask the Mediatrician: Questions about children and technology use with advice from pediatrician Dr. Michael Rich.
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