Do what we say, not what we do?

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Photo: Savvysassymoms.com

via Do what we say, not what we do? on clarion-ledger.com

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Most of us parents like to think we’re setting a pretty good example for our kids. We try to make sure they make the right decisions in every facet of life. I can still remember my parents reminding me to eat right, sit back from the TV, don’t read in the dark, and giving me a thousand other pieces of advice.

Most of the time, we convince ourselves we’re doing a pretty good job of modeling good behavior for our kids, but a new study has suggested many of us are just not setting a very good example when it comes to consuming media on screened devices.

In a first-of-its-kind study released this week, parenting organization Common Sense Media found that, on average, parents spend more than nine hours a day with screen media (smartphones, TVs, computers, tablets, smartwatches and other devices). Most of that use is personal (not work-related). Interestingly, while the vast majority of parents believe we’re setting a good example for our kids when it comes to devices, we’re concerned about their use of technology. And about a third of us are concerned our kids’ use of these devices is keeping our children from getting enough sleep.

“These findings are fascinating because parents are using media for entertainment just as much as their kids, yet they express concerns about their kids’ media use while also believing that they are good role models for their kids,” said James P. Steyer, founder and CEO of Common Sense. “Media can add a lot of value to relationships, education, and development, and parents clearly see the benefits, but if they are concerned about too much media in their kids’ lives, it might be time to reassess their own behavior so that they can truly set the example they want for their kids.”

The study, titled the Common Sense Census: Plugged-In Parents of Tweens and Teens, pointed out that many parents are so worried about their kids’ use of media that more than two-thirds believe monitoring their media use is more important than respecting their privacy. It also had some interesting findings about how parents from different races, income levels and educational backgrounds differ in their use of screen time, and the level to which they’re worried about their kids’ device use.

The findings should be a wake-up call for all of us; there’s little doubt that all of this screen use must be having some effect on our children. And while we are justifiably concerned about the potential negative effects of all of these media interactions, it appears many of us just aren’t applying the same logic to ourselves. And — of course — actions speak much, much louder than words.

“Children are great mimics, which is why it is so important that parents introduce real boundaries and balance early on,” Steyer said. “Media will always be a part of life, and every family is different, but in general, we recommend that parents set rules and clear plans so that kids understand what is appropriate.”

One interesting finding from the study might help us rediscover a tradition with which many of us grew up — family dinner time. More than three of four parents who participated in the survey reported that electronic devices are prohibited during family meal times.

Common Sense is trying to encourage that trend with a multiyear national media campaign, #DeviceFreeDinner (#CenarSinCelular in Spanish), to encourage families to stop using their mobile devices at the dinner table. The organization reports that thousands of people have taken the challenge, which will be promoted during the holidays in advertising messages.

So, while we parents are rightfully concerned about all the screens that constantly seek to draw our children’s attention, it might be a good idea to look in the mirror and have an honest conversation with ourselves about the type of example we’re setting. The result could be actually getting to know the people sitting across from us at the dinner table.

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