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Rules for media use in the family

3 minutes reading time
0-17 years
Social Media
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“Just one more round!” or “Leon gets to watch TV much longer!” Almost all parents know this. What media is okay for my child? How much media time is not harmful? At what age does it make sense to have your own smartphone? For such issues, fixed rules can be a great help for parents and children. But they also lead to conflicts in families time and again. We have compiled some tips and background information for you.

Rules must make sense

Rules are not simply there for adults to determine things; they bring structure to family life. Media usage rules can be used to promote children’s media literacy. As parents, you have a special responsibility to keep an eye on fun and benefits associated with media, but also on risks and dangers. For quite some time, you will be able to assess both better than your child. It is important that your child understands the rules. Therefore, you should be able to justify for yourself and also to your child why certain rules apply and why it is important to follow them. If rules are not clearly stated or are interpreted differently, your child will have a hard time following them. However, this also means that certain rules apply to you as parents and that you act as a role model.

Rules can look different

Which rules make sense depends on the age of your child and on how you and your child generally deal with media. It’s not the same in every family.

The younger your child is, the more you should keep an eye on his or her media use. Young children need close supervision and should not spend too much time with media. As parents, decide on age-appropriate content, length of use, and appropriate devices. From elementary school age, your child gets many new impressions and influences. It still needs a lot of orientation, so clear rules are very important. You can now better talk to your child about content and let him or her have a say. From secondary school and adolescence at the latest, you should then trust your child to be more independent and increasingly relinquish control. Young people usually approach digital media openly, but they often cannot yet properly assess security risks. That is why you are still important as an orientation and contact person!

Shaping rules together

Depending on the age of your child, agree on rules for media use together – for example, by means of a media usage contract. Then your child can better understand and comply with them. Write down rules and place them visibly. Exceptions can also be formulated. Regularly check whether the rules still make sense or can and must be changed. Also, set rules that apply to everyone, such as not taking out the smartphone during a conversation.

Time with and without media

A big point of contention is the question of how much time with media is good. In addition to age, this also depends on your child and his or her individual approach to media. Does it quickly get lost in series or computer games or can it put the tablet aside at the end of an episode without any problems? The rule of thumb is: the younger, the less! Media vouchers are a way for children of elementary school age and older to set a weekly budget for a media device, for example. Sometimes this is easier and your child can manage their own time.
It is important that your child has a varied daily routine, uses media in different ways, but also has media-free experiences.

Media content selection and access to devices

Do you have the entire media ensemble in view? Radio plays and books are also part of media consumption and may appear in the rulebook.

Take into account that the content of media use varies greatly, as do the motives and needs of use. A game for mere diversion or entertainment may be weighted differently than learning with media. Make qualitative distinctions together with your child. Be sure to include age-appropriate content as well.

The question of the right age for the first smartphone occupies many parents. Perhaps consult with parents of your child’s friends and consider whether certain rules can apply to everyone.

Security settings for devices and apps

When it comes to getting your own phone for the first time or using mom’s tablet, setting options can also restrict access to various content and apps. However, these should be discussed together. Such settings or certain apps can help enforce rules. But these tools are no substitute for guidance from you as parents. Explanations from you and conversations about media make a significant contribution to your child learning to use media competently.

Rules may vary depending on the child’s age and stage of development. On the one hand, stay consistent, otherwise they will not serve their purpose. At the same time, if possible, do not use the rules as a punishment or reward.

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