Media Health Matters


Reboot Your Family’s Media Routine!


One great way your family can break old media habits, troubleshoot, and get routines running smoothly again is to participate in the Campaign for Commercial Free Childhood Screen-Free Week, April 30-May 6. Whether you’re turning off screens completely or just using media moderately, inspire your family with these make-it-happen techniques. Check out the research, Q&A’s, and tips that can help your family stick to your screen-free plan for one week, and emerge with a better understanding of healthy media habits for the future.


Each family is unique. Share your screen-free ideas with other parents on our Facebook page! 


The Tips   


Here are 5 tips to help your family succeed during screen-free week and keep media time and content moderate all year long.  

  1. Focus on why you care. Think about what motivates you to manage your child’s media habits and why.  Are you concerned about how media impact your child’s personal identity, social connections, extracurricular participation, eating habits, physical activity, sleep habits, academic achievement, body image, or brain development? For parents, the sense of convenience or indulgence that accompany entertainment media can be tempting influences, but focusing on the love and empathy you feel for your children may help you more consistently select healthy routines and opportunities for them.


  2. Consider the evidence. Look at research shows that media are neutral tools–it’s how we use them that determines how they affect us.  We know that media content influences children’s developing beliefs and behavior, and that the consequences are formative, not superficial. For example, kids’ perceptions of themselves and the people around them are influenced by media portrayals of gender, race, ethnicity, disability, class, sexuality, beauty ideals, and other identities. That’s part of why children’s media use can be linked to negative health outcomes, like smoking, obesity, risky sexual behavior, disordered eating, anxiety, alcohol abuse, attention deficits, addictive behavior, decreased academic performanceand aggressive behavior. But when content is chosen wisely, moderate amounts of media are correlated with positive health outcomes.


  3. Set clear rules. Warmly discuss your media plan with your family, and involve older kids in the decision process.  Will you prohibit all electronic entertainment media, and allow screens for work, school, and phone communication only? Will media be removed from the home environment? Will texting packages be turned off? Be a strong role model, write down a few simple changes, and hang reminder signs to help make your path to success a clear one. Then shift to a smart screentime budget throughout the year.


  4. Identify successful alternatives that fit your child. When trying to find screen-free activities for your child, think about what worked in the past and build on that.  When did your family last enjoy a restful or exciting hour without screens? If that was during a power outage, start there; light a few candles and tell stories. Enjoyable screen-free moments probably match your child’s needs and interests. Would your child benefit most from more time to relax, socialize face-to-face with family, do homework, help others, exercise, read a book, pursue a hobby, develop a natural talent, be creative, or play outside?


  5. Work together to make a difference. Embrace the fact that you are not alone in your effort to manage media. Exchange ideas with a neighbor or discuss healthful children’s media use on the community level.  When a community of adults teach similar messages about healthy behavior, children are more likely to adopt the behavior. We see that, for example, in research shows that kind deeds are contagious. So, get your whole family and other caring adults involved in screen-free week, then enjoy working to create a healthier environment for youth! 


The Q&A


Pediatrician, professor, parent, and former filmmaker Dr. Michael Rich answers parents’ questions about media and health. Encouraging families to enjoy their media and use them wisely, Dr. Rich shares science-based answers and practical solutions.

What’s your question? Ask the Mediatrician┬«.           

The Mediatrician

Does the sound from TV affect infants?


Can reducing screentime help kids with attention disorders?


The Research


The following studies on parental mediation examine the relationship between children, media, and health. Search the CMCH Database of Research (DoR) for easy access to the current state of knowledge regarding electronic and print media and the effects they may have on child health. 

  • This study found that parental safety measures on Internet browsing have only a small preventive role and cannot protect adolescents from Internet addiction. The online activities most associated with Internet addiction were watching online pornography, online gambling, and online gaming. See this study 
  • Study authors found that children who had more open communication about TV with their families tended to see TV as less real and viewing as having negative effects. See this study