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"Common Sensing" Media Consumption


Parents face many challenges, including how to help their children navigate the growing digital world in which we live. Between computers, Smartphones, tablets, TV and the big screen, it sometimes can feel like kids are overwhelmed with digital choices.

On June 15, Jennifer Ehehalt, a Pittsburgh representative for Common Sense Media, offered parents in the District a few tips and tools for helping to set boundaries and find educational ways to use the ever-growing selection of digital devices and media available today.

According to its mission statement, Common Sense Media is the leading nonprofit organization dedicated to helping kids thrive in a world of media and technology. It provides parents, teachers and policymakers with unbiased information, trusted advice and innovative tools to help them harness the power of media and technology as a positive force.

Ms. Ehehalt told those in attendance that Common Sense Media works with school districts – especially those who are embarking on a 1:1 digital transformation – to make sure that technology in the classroom is used in alignment with best practices. “We take a balanced approach to media in the classroom,” she said.

Creating limits for screen time – and helping kids to become creators and not just consumers of digital media – was the topic of discussion for the evening. With tweens and teens consuming an average of six hours of screen time daily, with 41 percent of that time spent on mobile devices using social media, Ehehalt said parents often are looking for help in creating realistic goals for their children. “This new media landscape is not easy to navigate,” she said. “It’s common for parents to worry and to feel guilty about how much time their kids may be spending with (digital media) and questioning whether they are doing enough. I would say if you’re worried, then that’s the first step that you’re doing it right.”

There are several warning signs that kids are spending too much time as digital consumers instead of digital creators. Questions parents should be asking themselves include:

  • Physical health – is your child in good physical health?
  • Socially connecting – are children so consumed with digital media they are failing to connect socially with friends and family?
  • Grades – are children engaged and achieving in school?
  • Learning – are children having fun and learning (consumers and creators) through their use of digital media?

If you answered no to one or more of these questions, Ehehalt said it may be time to re-examine their online habits to determine if they are overdoing it.

In addition to setting limits on digital consumption, Ehehalt said it is important to teach children how to follow digital citizenship rules. Digital citizenship is defined as the norms of appropriate, responsible behavior in relation to technology usage and ensuring that everyone has the same opportunities when it comes to technology.

Parents can model healthy use of media by:

  • Using media with their children;
  • Knowing their own rules and following them;
  • Setting expectations and rehearsing them;
  • Connecting media to real life;
  • Talking about commercials and other advertising;
  • Encouraging creation as well as consumption;
  • Talking about digital citizenship; and
  • Modeling the media behavior you want to see in your kids.

Ehehalt also encouraged parents to set up device-free areas of their homes and continue the conversation offline about things consumed online, including themes in movies, music, books and TV shows.

As part of its digital transformation, the Hampton Township School District plans to incorporate Common Sense Media’s digital citizenship curriculum, which teaches these important aspects of being a good digital citizen.

Parents in attendance had several questions about digital media, including how to determine if apps and online programs are safe for their children and when to allow children to own Smartphones.

When it comes to choosing content, Ehehalt encouraged parents to always review the privacy and safety policies of any apps or online chat rooms children want to use. A major warning sign that an app or program is lacking in privacy and safety protections is that it allows a child to sign up for an account without parental permission. Other guidelines to protect your child’s safety and privacy while online can be found here.  When in doubt about whether a movie, app or book is appropriate for your child, Ehehalt said “common sense” it. Common Sense Media offers a vast collection of reviews on everything from movies to books to popular apps on its website. Parents can see not only the professional review from a Common Sense Media expert, but also reviews from other parents and kids.

Ehehalt also discussed how parents can monitor their children’s digital usage without overdoing it. Although there are a number of apps and programs that allow parents to monitor their children’s online consumption and usage 24/7, Ehehalt said Common Sense Media “recommends spot-checking. Doing it every day and all of the time does not help to build trust with your child.”

Additional media engagement sessions with Common Sense Media will be planned throughout the year for parents in the District. Upcoming sessions will be advertised on the District website and social media.

To learn more about digital media consumption, visit the Common Sense Media website

Posted by berg in STEAM, Digital Transformation on Tuesday June, 20, 2017 at 05:11PM

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