How children use media has a lot to do with who they are. Although no two kids are exactly alike, children generally go through the same stages of development. Knowing these stages can help you encourage your child to use media in new and creative ways.
What you can do: Help your child understand where TV watching fits — and doesn't fit—into your family's daily and weekly routines. Try to be consistent.
What you can do: Read software reviews and TV program guides to find activities that teach important number and space concepts, like counting, arranging objects from biggest to smallest, or describing something as near or far. Reinforce these concepts when you and your child are talking.
What you can do: Choose TV programs and computer activities that include songs and rhythms. Encourage your child to sing and dance rather than just watch.
What you can do: Avoid TV shows that may be scary for your child, especially right before bedtime. If she becomes scared, reassure her that everyone is safe. A hug and a favorite toy may bring comfort. But remember, what scares one child may not scare a sibling or a peer.
What you can do: Though some TV programs work on two levels - one that appeals to children and one that appeals to adults - other shows are designed solely for kids, and may offer you little entertainment. Still, pay attention to what makes your child giggle and encourage joke telling.
What you can do: In addition to setting limits on the amount of time your child watches TV and plays on the computer, get her moving, crawling, running, balancing, throwing, climbing, bouncing, galloping, hopping and dancing.
What you can do: Avoid TV shows with gender stereotypes that teach your child that an activity is "just for boys" or "just for girls." Tell your child that both girls and boys can be anything they want to be.
What you can do: When you ask your child to tell you stories — even those about something on TV, from a book or in a computer game — anticipate that her stories may be wild and exaggerated. Try not to discourage your child from telling her version of a story.
What you can do: Clearly tell your child what the TV and computer rules are. For example, you might let your child know that "all screens go off when we eat." Be consistent.
What you can do: Turn TV watching into an activity. Ask your child questions about programs and characters and give him chances to build on TV stories by drawing pictures. Provide crayons and paper and offer to write captions on your child's drawings.
What you can do: Avoid TV programs and computer games that show characters resolving conflict with physical violence. When your child sees a character use physical violence to solve a problem, point it out as something not to do and offer suggestions. For example, "Instead of hitting the mouse, he could have asked him to stop bothering him."
What you can do: Help your child incorporate many characters - even those from TV, video games and books — into dramatic play. Provide props like old clothes, egg cartons and large cardboard boxes that can expand your child's play.