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Decoding Media For My Child

It’s early July in the middle of a heatwave summer and your kids are home from school or spending a great deal of time indoors on the weekend. It’s very likely your children are enjoying more than their fair share of screen time–I know we are. And as a parent with two young children, I have to say I watch my fair share of children’s media as of late and it’s surprising and perplexing what I’ve seen.

I can’t tell you how many shows we’ve scrolled past on Netflix or Disney+ thinking it looked age-appropriate and harmless for my 3-year-old only to find my child experiencing physical signs of anxiety or stress, like hiding behind the pillows on the couch. Or better yet, have you had that experience as a parent where you finally catch a listen of the dialogue on a show your child is watching and you’re sorely disappointed in their communication and management of stress or interpersonal relationships? I’ve sometimes grimaced with discomfort–this isn’t how I want my child to learn to manage these situations. And boom–parent guilt. All the shoulds start racing through my mind–I should sit and watch these with her, I should really limit the amount of screen time she has, I should...and the list goes on.

If you’ve experienced this and also wrestled with your inability to sit and watch every show or episode your child is interested in but aren’t sure if the material your child is watching is age-appropriate then boy, do I have a resource for you.

Common Sense Media is a resource website for parents that provides age ratings and feedback on a variety of shows, books, and other media content for parents to use in deciding if the content is right for their child. Some of the reviews are free, but parents can pay an annual fee to have access to the full website, reviews, and resource manuals for only $30 per year. 

The site also showcases some great resources for parents–everything from step-by-step guides to setting up parental controls on your media and devices to templated Family Media Agreements to use in establishing boundaries as a family unit. They even offer educational sessions that are virtual, live and recorded, on a variety of topics related to child development and media.

And while this doesn’t entirely dismiss the role parents should play in reviewing and discussing media content your child is viewing, it does significantly take the guesswork out of media use.

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