Al Mohler has posted a blog entry which suggests these 7 guidelines for handling a child’s exposure to media and parental supervision and oversight. These are very helpful and measured, not too reactionary and quite realistic.
1. Limit the total media exposure experienced by your children. The statistic that the average child and adolescent is immersed in the media for 45 hours a week should be sufficient motivation for parents to hit the brakes and gain control of media exposure. Access to entertainment media should be a privilege earned, not a right assumed by the child.
2. Do not allow children and teenagers to have televisions and Internet-connected computers in the bedroom. There is simply too much danger in unsupervised media exposure, and too much temptation in terms of both quantity and content. No child needs a television in the bedroom, and a computer connected to the Internet is an invitation to disaster.
3. Make entertainment media a family experience. There is a massive difference in the experience of a child watching programming alone and that same child watching with a parent. Parents should be in unquestioned control of media decisions. Parents should also be eager to discuss what is seen with teenagers and children, helping them to grow in discernment and judgment.
4. Parents have to do the hard work of actually knowing what their children and teenagers are watching, playing, hearing, and experiencing through media exposure. No one said parenting was supposed to be easy.
5. Realize that a revolution has taken place in the lives of children and adolescents. The emergence of social media technologies means that children (and adolescents especially) now expect to be in constant communication with their peers. This is not healthy, sane, or helpful. All of us — children and teenagers included — need a break from this immersion. Put a charging dock in the kitchen and confiscate cell phones as the kids come in the door. That will send a message the old fashioned way — in person.
6. Take a regular look at what your child is posting and what others are posting on his or her social media sites. Look at the instant messaging exchanges and emails. You are the parent, after all, and your child’s access to these technologies should come with the open and non-negotiable requirement that parents see it all.
7. Remember that saying “no” is a legitimate option. I do not believe that saying “no” is always the right response. The media bring opportunities for good as well as for evil. Children and teenagers who are never allowed access to media technologies and entertainment will emerge into adulthood with no powers of discernment. But “no” is sometimes the best and only appropriate answer, and parents should always be ready to use it when needed.
Way to go, Al. You can come over to my house for coffee next time you’re in town. And then I’ll kick your butt at the 3rd person shooter of your choice after we take in a Cav’s game while Twittering live commentary on our PDAs.