5 Simple Steps to a Healthy Family Media Diet

By Caroline Knorr, Common Sense Media, Parenting Editor

Many parents struggle with exactly how much screen time is OK for their kids. Is a half-hour show OK but a full-length movie "bad"? How much gaming should you allow when your kid also uses his computer for homework? Does Wikipedia count as "reading"? And when does a passion for say, video games, become problematic? The truth is, there is no magic formula. And just as every family differs in what they eat, when they eat, and what they like, a healthy media diet is different for every family. The key is making sure that the things that are important to your family are fairly balanced over the long term.

A healthy media diet balances activities (games, social media, TV), time (15 minutes? Three hours?), and choices (YouTubeMinecraftStar Wars) with offline activities (sports, face-to-face conversations, daydreaming). At some point, kids will be able to manage their own media diets. In the meantime, these tips can help set them up for success.

Find balance.

Instead of counting daily screen-time minutes, aim for a balance throughout the week. Get your kids to help plan a week that includes stuff they have to do and stuff they like to do, such as schoolwork, activities, chores, reading, family time, and TV or gaming. Decide on limits and behavior using our Family Media Agreement.

Walk the walk.

Put your devices away while driving, at mealtimes, and during important conversations. Kids will learn habits from you.

Talk about it.

Ask questions about kids' favorite games, shows, and characters. Discuss ideas and issues they read about or learn about through a TV show or a game. This is an opportunity for bonding, learning, and sharing your values.

Create tech-free zones.

Set rules that fit your family, such as "no devices during dinner," "no social media during homework," or "all screens off before bedtime."

Check ratings.

Choose age-appropriate, high-quality media and tech for your kids. Use our reviews to find good stuff.

Common Sense Media

Common Sense Media is an independent nonprofit organization offering unbiased ratings and trusted advice to help families make smart media and technology choices.  Check out our ratings and recommendations at www.commonsense.org.