One question that is often asked is what is the appropriate media time or duration of use. It is not easy to give an answer that fits all children. Because every child is different! You know your child best. Therefore, you can best answer this question yourself by observing your child’s media use and recognizing what is good for him or her and fun, or when your child reaches his or her limits. Especially in the first years of life, children can quickly be overwhelmed by media, as they are not yet able to understand and classify them correctly. Colorful images, sounds, and complex stories can lead to overstimulation. Therefore, keep media time very low for babies and children up to about two years old.
Nevertheless, media exert a fascination on children and at some point they also want to explore them more closely. Young children, of course, can not yet decide for themselves what measure is good for them. It is important that you accompany your child during this process, also to explain things. Create fixed and limited media times. Media rituals give your child structure. If possible, avoid leaving your child alone with media, especially when the device is online. Also consider the role media otherwise plays in everyday family life. If all other family members use a lot of media, it is difficult for the youngest to understand why they are not allowed to do so.
One way of establishing common rules for media use in the family is a media use agreement. The media literacy initiatives
have developed an online tool for this purpose. With this, you can individually determine together with your children which media and content may be used in the family, how and for how long. The tool offers a variety of customizable rule templates for children under or over 12, as well as for parents. There is also the possibility to create your own rules.
You can find the tool at www.mediennutzungsvertrag.de.
One question that is often asked is what is the appropriate media time or duration of use. It is not easy to give an answer that fits all children. Because every child is different! You know your child best. Therefore, you can best answer this question yourself by observing your child’s media use and recognizing what is good for him or her and fun, or when your child reaches his or her limits. However, it is important that you agree on times and duration, e.g. with the help of a media use contract. Media rituals also help your child structure their day and media use. For adolescents, hand over responsibility for appropriate media time step by step. Nevertheless, stay in conversation with your child. Does it understand what the show, movie or game is about? Does certain content scare him? Does it know age restrictions on movies and games and security settings on devices and apps? Ask what media content your child likes and why. If it has little or no alternative interests and activities, or if any non-use causes great stress, consider together what you can change.
As parents, you should set rules for the media use of infants and babies. The very young need a lot of attention and care. Eye contact and a direct approach are important to develop a bond between you and your child. If you are constantly looking at your smartphone, you are distracted and your child notices. You should also discuss such rules with other close caregivers such as grandparents, siblings or the teachers at the daycare center so that they know what is important to you with regard to your child and its contact with media.
Children do not understand media until they are about one and a half years old. Very gradually, they understand what media are and what happens in them. They acquire media gradually by observing, exploring, trying out, and imitating. Access to digital media should not be encouraged or even forced. Slowly introduce your child to analog media such as children’s books, and then gradually expand the media assortment with offerings suitable for children.
Unfortunately, there is no universal solution to family conflicts in dealing with media. It is helpful if clearly understandable rules are established for all family members. You can influence your child’s media use with rules. However, the child should also be allowed to have a say – in accordance with his or her age. The older it gets, the more it should be involved.
The rules should be created and written down together. Whenever children can understand their parents’ rules, it is easier for them to follow them. Wishes and limits can be discussed. Together, you can negotiate exceptions, time limits, or media-free spaces. You can also use tools for support. Remember that clear times when media may be used can and may vary depending on the age of the child.
Please do not use media use, such as television, as a punishment or reward. Prohibitions, which are usually incomprehensible to the child, are also of no use.