Another year has come to an end and it seems to be an obligatory ritual to make lists of all the things we resolve to get better at in the coming year. In an always-wired, 24/7 media culture, getting a handle on your family’s digital media habits could very well be at the top of your list. However, since New Year’s Resolutions seldom make it past February, and so you don’t get overwhelmed with too much, I want to encourage you instead to make just two tiny tweaks to your family’s approach to media.
Be Aware and Intentional – We are constantly being barraged by hundreds of public and private messages daily. Digital, print, audio, visual; TV, radio, billboards, YouTube videos, Facebook and Twitter updates, email, RSS feeds, text messages, and on it goes. There is so much information coming at us at all times, there is a tendency to grow numb, and oblivious to what we are actually taking in. This is especially true for young people who have not had their powers of observation trained sufficiently. They’ll watch a commercial, hear a news report, or read some story shared by a friend on a social network and give no thought on who’s behind the message, what their motives are, or what the message is actually saying.
Take time to think more critically about what you’re watching, listening to, or reading. Encourage your kids to do the same. Have discussions with them about they’re taking in. Schedule times for watching TV, surfing the net, and doing status updates on social networks, rather than allowing it all to be an endless stream of unconscious activity. Being aware and intentional when engaging media is empowering, and will enable your family to take control of your media habits, rather than them controlling you.
Unplug Regularly – It takes some effort, but making a habit of regularly unplugging from technology is one of the most freeing things you can do for your family. A recent report by the Kaiser Family Foundation estimates children between the ages of 8 to 18 spend an average of seven and a half hours a day with cells phones, computers, televisions and other electronic devices. Engaging in face to face contact with other people is critical to proper social development for kids, and is a skill they’ll need as adults. Providing opportunities for regular human interaction is something that has to purposed and intentional when the norm is to spend most of the time staring at a screen of one sort or another. Go to the library, or play a game together. Get outside, go to the park, or for a walk. Enjoy one another, or the company other friends and family. My kids are often waaay better entertainment than any movie!
Balancing the challenges and the opportunities that digital media technology presents is not always easy. But just a little shift in perspective can go a long way in making your family happier, healthier, and better digital citizens in the coming year.
How about you? Do you have anything you’re planning to do differently with regard to digital media in 2012? Let us know in the comments below.
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