Choosing Media Wisely

By FCPS & Fairfax County Government
Healthy Minds
October 09, 2019

Many parents worry about the amount of time their children are spending on devices. While time is one consideration, the content and features of media they’re using is important too. The six steps below will help families discover high quality media. They’ll also help parents learn what to look for and discuss with their children before using a new app, game, or service.

Step 1: Make a list of the specific games/apps/media your children use or would like to use. 

Step 2: Use reviews to learn about the game/app/media your children want to use. The following two sites provide information about what’s in a game, app, movie, or online service. This helps parents make informed decisions about the media used by their children. 

Step 3: Consider the following questions to inform your decision and what you need to talk about with your children.

  • What is the educational value of the app, media, game, or service?
  • Can your children communicate with people they don’t know while using the app, game, or service?
  • Is the app, game, media, or service age appropriate and is there questionable content?
  • Does the tool or service use location services?
  • Can your children buy additional features, also known as in-app purchases?
  • Can your children publish text, photos, or videos publicly? 
  • Is there live streaming?
  • What information is collected about your children and who can this be shared with? This information is usually found in the Terms of Service and Privacy Policies.
  • Who owns the content your children post or share?
  • Does the app, game, media, or service reflect your family’s values?

Step 4: OK...you’ve done your research! Next, decide the app, game, or media that is right for your family. Does your child have the maturity, judgement, and self-control to use it in a safe, responsible, and ethical manner? 

Step 5: Establish expectations and consequences. Be transparent about any parental controls you are using. Be consistent in upholding the expectations and consequences. FCPS provides resources for establishing expectations. 

Step 6: Enjoy media together. Use teachable moments to help your children develop a safe and healthy relationship with their media and devices.

Healthy Minds is for parents, educators, and community-based providers who are interested in supporting student mental health and wellness. It represents a collaboration between FCPS’ Office of Intervention and Prevention Services and the Fairfax County Government. SUBSCRIBE to Healthy Minds and receive a monthly digest of our most recent articles.