Parenting and Media

Elder Bednar, one of the Apostles of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints said, “Technology in and of itself is neither inherently good nor bad. Rather, the purposes accomplished with and through technology are the ultimate indicators of goodness or badness”. To that end, parents should carefully consider how much media and what types of media their children consume.

Developmental Milestones of Parenting and Media

 Average Media Use by Age

  • Less than 2 -1+ hours of media per day
  • 2 Years Old – 2+ hours per day for 2
  • School Age Children – 4-8 hours per day of media (media being books, TV, video games… not school)
  • Teens – 11 hours (Half of teens media multi-task, and 75% have a cell phone)

Developmentally Appropriate Practices for Parents

  • Cocooning (Restrictive) – for younger kids, it is effective,but can backfire when children are older. Reasoned cocooning (discussing the reason why you are protecting them) is the best.
    • Some things you should always cocoon with no matter the age (ex. Pornography, certain TV shows)
  • Pre-arming (Active) – pre-arming (or preparing for situations children might encounter) is better older kids (ex. Ask, “When you see pornography, how should you react? How can you avoid it?)
  • Co-Watching/Playing (Passive) – co-participating passively is not necessarily bad for any age, but can be negative if you are watching negative content and don’t react or discuss it (this tells the child you consent to the media)
  • Co-Use (Connective) – doing media together with purpose to connect is good for all ages (ex. Becoming Facebook Friends, playing video games together that are not rated T or M)
    • Good question to ask children if you come across questionable media together, “how do you feel when you watch that?”

Effects of Media Types by Age Group

  • Younger Children
    • Disney movies have high amounts of prosocial behavior and may be good choices for parents
    • Prosocial violence (like super heroes, power rangers) is not good media to choose for young kids (especially under 8) because children at this age don’t make the connection between the motives of the heroes and the violence
  • Older Children
    • Advertising of cigarettes and drugs is associated with smoking/drinking
  • All Ages
    • Educational Media is linked with academic achievement and literacy
    • Prosocial media is associated with more sympathy and prosocial behavior
    • Violent media is associated with aggression, both in the long and short-term
    • Heavy media use is associated with lower attention and academic achievement

Some Relevant Concerns of Family Media Use

Ensuring that Media Use in the Home Is Helping Rather Than Hurting

Media can be good for family relationships, but can also detract from them. Here are some guidelines to help with ensuring that media is used well in the home:

  • Use media in Moderation. Family media can strengthen, individual media can detract – all things in moderation
  • NO media in the bedroom, have a media curfew
  • Turn off the TV (background media)
  • It is OK to say no to media, set the rules early and stick with them
  • Check ratings on media (effects of video games rated T and above are more negative)
  • All media can have an effect: music, books, social networking – stay on top of it!
  • Monitor, monitor, monitor
  • Help your children be active consumers of media – discuss media and its effects with them (before and after media exposure)
  • Limit cocooning as children get older, they need to learn to make good choices

Avoiding Technoference

Technoference, when individual media use interferes with relationships, is a new body of research that is important to consider. Here are some things parents and families should consider related to this concept:

  • Early findings of this research suggest that media use can be associated with lower relationship satisfaction for couples
  • Parents who are more absorbed in their media tend to respond to their children harshly

What Parents Can Do

  • Follow Elder Ridd’s advice to “’Be where you are when you are there.’ When you are driving, drive. When you are in class, focus on the lesson. When you are with your friends, give them the gift of your attention.”
  • Come up with rules as a family such as no media at the dinner table or during family activities
  • Monitor your own media use

Limiting Screen Time

Many parents wonder at what point screen time becomes unhealthy. Here are the guidelines given by the American Academy of Pediatrics:

  • For children under 18 months: avoid screen time other than video chatting
  • For children 18-24 months: 30-min to an hour of high quality programming
  • For children 2-5: limit screen time to 1 hour per day of high-quality programs
  • For children over 6: place limits and make sure it doesn’t interfere w/ other health behaviors
  • Designate media free times (dinner, driving) as well as media-free locations in the home (bedroom)
  • Having ongoing conversations about citizenship (civility) and safety

Supplementary Materials About Media

Resources to Evaluate the Appropriateness of Media

Other Resources

Top Rated Family Movies Lists

LDS Resources



Note for Author: For information not provided in links, see 2017 personal notes on lecture about parenting and media from SFL 240 class