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Creating LS Habits: Make Room for Healthy Media Choices

LREI
‘Tis the season, and sure enough the tech industry and game developers are targeting children and adults alike with the latest and greatest devices and video games. Before you decide that now is the time to get your child the hottest device or the latest game, there are several things worth considering.
 
Ask Questions:
Start with WHY. Why are you thinking of purchasing a particular game or device? Is it because you’ve been told by your child that, “Everybody but me has one?” Have you been inundated with ads? Does your child have a genuine interest in the product or game?
 
If you decide to go ahead with the purchase, below are a few best practices that we recommend regarding the use of technology with younger children. 
 
Age Recommendations:
In terms of games, know that many come with age recommendations (just like movies and books). For instance, did you know that one of the most popular video game right now, Fortnite, comes with a rating of 12 years old and above? The purpose of this game is to collect and build, but also to shoot and attack with a variety of weapons. Because sound is important and the game is interactive, use of headsets means that parents will not always know what other players are saying during this virtual interactive game. These are but two factors among many that parents and caregivers should know.
 
Reviews of Devices and Games:
We understand that sometimes the sheer breadth of technology can make a parent feel completely overwhelmed. Maybe you’re not into technology, or are simply uninterested in the gaming world. The fact of the matter is, if your child is using it, you need to know about it. As is true with the literature your children read, the greater the familiarity with the content your child is consuming, the better equipped you are to guide your child in their engagement with that content. Thankfully, there are several sites that can help parents and caregivers decide if specific video games are right for their families. As parents ourselves, we rely heavily on Common Sense Media. This handy site reviews and sets age recommendations on a variety of media including video games, books, and movies. The British site Ask About Games is also a good resource and includes posts with titles like “Parents’ Guide: Roblox”, and “Parents Guide to Fortnite.” 
 
Set Limits:
It’s important to set limits regarding devices and games before your child starts using them. Figure out what amount of time gaming or on devices works for your family. You can draft a family contract (include your own usage as well) and have your child agree to the terms of the contract before logging on. This way, if things do not go as planned, you have an agreement to reference when discussing your concerns with your child. As the games evolve, content changes, and the children change as well, expect to revisit your expectations periodically to ensure that your agreements remain relevant. Lastly, once you’ve agreed upon what works for your family, it’s important for you to share this plan with the other adults (caregivers, grandparents, etc) in your life. It is important to speak with your children about what to do when they are spending time with other families.  How can they navigate situations where the rules are different?
 
Develop Healthy Habits:
One way to help your children develop healthy habits is to model these habits yourself. Check in with yourself - What is your relationship with your phone or device? Ensuring that you do not have your device at the dinner table or during shared times, for example, will go a long way toward helping your child develop their own healthy habits. One of the best pieces of advice we received years ago was to “play along”, get involved, ask your children to share with you what they like about a game or app. Not too long ago we tried joining our teenagers in one of their favorite online games. We could barely move the main character, let alone play alongside them, but we all had a good laugh. It was definitely a bonding moment and gave us insight into not only their interests but also what the game was about. 
  
Tools To Help You On Your Digital Journey 
“The Kid Should See This connects busy teachers and parents to a growing library of smart, short, & super-cool, “not-made-for-kids, but perfect for them” videos that can be watched in the classroom or together at home. “
Common Sense Media  (ages 5-7)
“Common Sense is the leading independent nonprofit organization dedicated to helping kids thrive in a world of media and technology.”
Common Sense Media  (ages 8-9)
Common Sense Media   (ages 10-12)
UK site where parents and players can ask for advice about any particular video game.
 
Gift Guide
Gift guide, recommendations for both analog and digital media.
Their annual gift guide
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