Media Health Matters


Back-to-School Routines Can Inspire Healthy Habits!      


Back-to-school schedules prompt a change in routines and new opportunities to establish smart media habits. Since how kids spend their time influences their social, cognitive, and academic development, parental guidance is key. Take this opportunity to think about how your family’s media habits can best support your children’s cognitive potential using the tips and research below. Over the next two weeks, check our Facebook page each school day for new tips and to share your thoughts with other forward-thinking families!


The Tips 


Your child’s developing health, media, and learning habits are intertwined. Here are a few suggestions to help your child learn healthy habits at home and get off to a smart start this school year.


Y O U N G E R   K I D S: 

  • Provide ample opportunities for the fullness of real learning experiences. If your child’s school or daycare adds more media learning opportunities, you may need to offer more non-media experiences in order to optimize your young child’s development. The National Association for the Education of Young Children advises that computers be used to supplement–not replace–highly valued early childhood activities and materials such as art, blocks, sand, water, books, exploration with writing materials, and dramatic play. 


O L D E R   K I D S:                                                             

  • Be the architect of your home learning environment. Easy options in the home environment often influence our children’s behavior. Try a few changes that may shape choices: place computers in common areas; make the school website your home page; bookmark homework support websites and set parental controls; eliminate TV background noise; agree on study locations; remove the TV from the bedroom and add a reading lamp and books; and rethink how many TVs and computers you want in your house. A few adjustments can save you a lot of debates and add structure that may help your kids achieve their academic goals.


  • No texting after 10 PM. Without direction, some kids think it’s rude not to answer a text in the middle of the night. When adapting to new technology, make behavior expectations clear and explain that it’s important to prioritize healthy habits. Teens need an average of 9 hours of sleep every nightand lack of sleep may compromise a teen’s health, school attendance, and performance. Your teen is more likely to follow your advice if you make sleep and smart media habits a priority as well.


The Research

The CMCH Database of Research provides parents, media professionals, clinicians, teachers, and researchers access to the current state of knowledge regarding electronic and print media and the effects they may have on child health. More research is needed as children’s media experiences become more widely available, dynamic, and interactive. The following studies examine the relationship between media use and children’s learning. 


How can kids use screens to support their schoolwork and other learning?

  • Kids who use home computers in effective ways get better grades. See this study     
  • Children can learn positive lessons and develop logic and attention skills from playing a moderate amount of educational video games. See this study  
  • Appropriate amounts of educational TV can give kids 3 to 5 the tools necessary to excel in school. See this study
  • Teens can do homework with background music, but other media distract them, resulting in poorer quality work, less retention, and lower grades. See this study
  • Moderate TV (1-10 hours per week) was positively associated with achievement, while heavier viewing (more than 11 hours a week) was negatively linked with achievement. See this study


Why is it important to keep screens out of bedrooms and screen time moderate?

  • Children watching large quantities of television are less likely to participate in after-school activities and engage actively in other intellectually stimulating activities. See this study 
  • Children with TVs in their bedrooms are at higher risks for sleep problems and academic difficulty. See this study       
  • Teenagers who spent an excessive amount of time watching TV may be more likely to have attention and learning problems that persist and interfere with their long-term educational achievement. See this study    
  • Excessive viewing See this study age three has been shown to be associated with problems of attention control, aggressive behavior, and poor cognitive development. See this study
  • Infants and toddlers gain nothing from an electronic screens and may lose. See this study  


The Q & A


Drawing on his experience as a parent, pediatrician, professor, and filmmaker, Dr. Michael Rich answers parents’ questions about health and video games, cellphones, TV & movies, books/magazines, music and the Internet/computers. Encouraging families to enjoy their media and use them wisely, Dr. Rich shares science-based answers and practical solutions on 

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

Coming soon from the Mediatrician: How children’s media habits can coalesce, rather than collide, with developing health and learning habits.