Creating media-savvy citizens

Courtesy photo

These days students are spending much of their time on screens and devices.

COVID-19 has caused a paradigm shift for families whose children are at home and back at school, learning remotely. Parents and guardians are concerned about how to equip themselves and their children with the necessary skills and ethics to stay safe with media, while at the same time making sure students are being productive.

Today's new media involves interaction with digital devices and technologies. Knowing how to effectively interact with these technologies is part of Media Savvy Citizens' mission. MSC facilitates understanding, positive participation and meaningful media interaction for New Mexico learners.

Depending on a child's age and impulse control, some children may need monitoring. While it may look like a child is safe with headphones on quietly sitting on the couch, the internet brings many various voices into the home and a child's mind. It is important to have a plan of action and to be proactive in an unregulated internet landscape.

Below are some tips for parents/guardians to exercise while students are spending much of their time on screens and devices.

For staying healthy and being prepared with plans and schedules:

• Create a schedule around your child's school meeting schedule, making sure that students know when to attend class and what to do when not attending class.

• Ensure your child has a morning, lunch and afternoon break away from screens to avoid body, mind and eye fatigue.

• Include exercise in the daily schedule, such as going for walks, riding bikes and jumping rope.

• Make a family media plan using entertainment and media consumption as a privilege and not a right.

• Involve children in creating a media schedule setting limits for when your child can use media for entertainment, especially during the school day.

For staying safe online with interactions, safe searching and updating settings:

• Interact with children and their media content to ensure it is age- and developmentally appropriate.

• Discuss and create a list for what is and isn't allowed for children to interact with online.

• Discuss the dangers associated with providing personal information, such as phone numbers, names or addresses to strangers posing as "friends" in gaming or social media.

• Use safe search engines such as sweetsearch.com, elportalnm.org and primaryschoolict.com to filter adult content and credible websites.

• Discover search engine safety settings and enable them, such as Google SafeSearch, Bing SafeSearch and Youtube Restricted Mode for younger children.

• Check your devices for viruses and spyware to make sure that your device is not vulnerable to cyber attacks.

• Make sure children understand the difference between fact and opinion, have fact-checking skills, can recognize credible sources and are able to check their own emotional meter when encountering media messages.

For monitoring kids' media use, implementing parental controls and setting limits:

• Invite your child/children to be a part of changing settings that keep them safe and healthy.

• Consider setting up parental controls on broadband and every device, i.e. tablet, phone, computer.

• Review and adjust privacy and location settings on devices and apps (social media) to control access to content and location.

• Block pop-ups to avoid pop-up of inappropriate content.

• Set phone time limits with apps such as Norton or IOS's Screen Time and review screen use time on Android and Microsoft.

• Have children check in devices at bedtime so that they get enough uninterrupted sleep (it can be too tempting if devices are left in bedrooms overnight).

It is recommended that you have loving, logical consequences for your children if they are dishonest and/or use media inappropriately. It is important to discuss consequences as part of a family media plan.

The tips provided cover information for all developmental stages of school children.

We thank Twirl and the Taos News for the opportunity to share our knowledge. MSC staff has decadeslong experience in media literacy, media effects and the positive and negative impact of media in our daily lives. MSC provides individualized or group courses, coaching and support for organizations, educators, children or parents/guardians across NM and is based in Taos. For more information, go to mediasavvycitizens.com.

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