It is more challenging than ever for parents to know how to navigate the social media world for themselves and for their children. When the age of children having smart phones is lowering to 7 and 8 years old, we have to question what we are doing to our kids. Do we realize we are giving them complete and total access to the world and the world to them through the open source internet that is on our phones? They are barely at the age of reason in which they can discern right from wrong. Do we expect them to know how to handle all the information coming at them from the internet and social media? Past is the time of social media being new and exciting. Now we, as a society, are discovering the harms and dangers of having too much screen time, both for children and adults. We are forgetting what it is to live in the great outdoors and enjoying time together as families. Let's take back that time.
Here is a tool to help parents talk about media usage with their kids. It is called media mindfulness. Media Mindfulness is a methodology for developing critical thinking skills that help us evaluate the messages we experience from and create in the media. It is a method of theological reflection that helps us go deeper into our values articulation so as to integrate our faith values with our everyday media experience. We can use the media mindfulness wheel as a way of discussing any media artifact with children and teens, such as a Netflix series, TV show, movie, pop song, or social media app. It is a way of evaluating what we experience and so make choices on what is according to our values and what will help us grow as integrated and happy human beings.
Here is the Media Mindfulness wheel:
This method of dialogue and discussion with children and teens helps them to not just absorb what they are doing with and experiencing through their media, but they are engaging their minds and hearts to question the motives of a media maker and the agendas and ideologies that often accompany a particular message. This is helping them to develop crucial discernment skills that will benefit them into their young adulthood and beyond.
Try discussing a latest movie using this wheel and you will see how it makes decision making about our media consumption much more informed by our values.
When you've done this. Try creating a "Family Media Pledge" to incorporate media mindfulness into your family's daily living. It can include screen time, family "no screen" meals, screens only in central areas of the house, etc. Here is the form in English and Spanish. You can work out a plan together and have each person in the family sign it. Keep it on the refrigerator door as a reminder of what you all have decided together. Hopefully, this can be the beginning of your communication with one another about technology, media, and programming that can help you grow in greater dialogue and live happier and faith-filled lives! God bless you!