Media Health Matters


Mindful Media Use


Center on Media and Child Health Director Dr. Michael Rich elaborates on the dualities of our children’s media environment: “Media are like the air they breathe and the water they drink, so we shouldn’t approach media use from a values-based position. Despite many of our preconceptions, media are neither good nor bad. What we do with media is what helps or hurts us. We need to approach media use decisions with evidence and understand that media are something that we are living with. We can do wonderful things with media, but we also can get in trouble if we’re not conscious and mindful in the way we’re using them.” 


That’s why in both the classroom and the neighborhood, it makes sense to choose a moderate amount of media time to complement, not replace, your child’s diverse lineup of academic and leisure activities. And Dr. Rich reminds us to consciously leave room for relaxation in a child’s schedule.


It is not just about cramming facts into children’s brains,” he explains, “but giving them the unstructured down time to process those facts and create their own ideas, that will give them the richest environment in which to develop. We can encourage kids to go for a walk (without ear-buds), look for shapes in the clouds, embrace rather than escape boredom, and enjoy the richness of their senses, the natural world, and the unplanned experiences that support both mental health and cognitive development.


Read more in this article on the impact of technology on children. Then, check out the tips, Q&A’s, and studies we’ve gathered for media-savvy parents seeking to help their child choose experiences that promote health. Please share your ideas on our Facebook page!


The Tips 


Focusing on health makes it easier to structure your child’s media routine. Here are a few suggestions for parents:  


Y O U N G E R   K I D S:      


Encourage children to practice their verbs. Texting, viewing, and watching may be fun, but kids need a variety of experiences to maximize growth. Try posting your own list of verbs that can serve as a ‘bucket list” for your kids this summer. Run, jump, build, invent, hike, bike–these are just some of that verbs that can provide your child with active and rich experiences. Is hula-hooping a verb?

> Find more summertime activities


O L D E R   K I D S:


Help kids learn to delay gratification. Explain that learning self management skills is part of growing up, and help your tween or teen learn to enjoy social and entertainment media on his own terms. First, encourage him to think about what’s important to him, like trying out for his sports team, school play, or making honor role. Next, urge him to consider what he needs to do to get there–for example, since he needs ample sleep to perform at his best, he may want to eliminate the disruption of nighttime texting by charging his phone in your room while he sleeps. He may choose to prioritize homework or practice over leisure screentime. Then, suggest that he put his personalized plan in writing. Learning to defer gratification isn’t easy (even for many adults!), so stay involved and help your teen learn from mistakes. With time, you can gradually reduce your guidance and celebrate his success! 

> Get the facts about problematic media use.


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.          

Click here to ask your question:


The Research


Search the CMCH Database of Research (DoR) to see more studies about children, media, and health.

  • Television and aggression: Test results showed that the relationship between TV violence and physical aggression is mediated by enjoyment of TV violence, perceived reality in TV violence, and identification with violent TV heroes. See this study
  • The commodification of self-esteem: This study found that adolescents appear to have a striking awareness of the role of branding, advertising, and peer pressure in forming their consumption attitudes, yet they are unable to resist them. See this study