Sheikha Jawaher bint Abdulla Al Qassimi.


Exclusive: Sheikha Jawaher’s tips to surviving media minefield

Media in all its forms can provide an opportunity for families to bond over shared experiences and be a source of entertainment, education, and information. To this end, the role of media when raising our families is an important one. In 2023, however, we know that media can also have a negative effect on child development. This includes exposure to violent imagery, sexualized content, misogynistic ideologies and unhealthy body standards, among others.

Recent “Common Sense Media” research shows that media use by tweens (ages 8–12) and teens (ages 13–18) rose faster in the two years since the Covid-19 pandemic than the four years before. The research found that 8- to 12-year-olds spend an average of five and a half hours a day on screens and consuming media. That rate climbs to over eight and a half hours a day for teens.

Among teens, 79 percent said they use social media and online videos at least once a week, and 32 percent of these said they “wouldn’t want to live without” YouTube. And nearly two-thirds (65 percent) of tweens said they watch TV, 64 percent watch online videos and 43 percent play games on a smartphone or tablet every day. In another survey, 71 percent of parents with younger children (under 12 years old) said they were concerned about their child spending too much time in front of screens.

Our children now have instant access to media via smartphones and tablets, alongside traditional screen time and the saturation of available video content. It is more important than ever for families to approach media consumption thoughtfully, and to educate ourselves to be able to actively guide children on how to engage with media in a positive and productive way.

Here are some tips on how to manage your family’s media consumption positively:

1. Set limits

Establishing boundaries around screen time can help create a healthy balance between this and other hobbies and activities such as exercise, socialization, and family time.

2. Engage in co-viewing

Watching together as a family can provide an opportunity for discussion and bonding. Co-viewing allows parents to monitor what their children are watching and can provide an opportunity to talk about any concerns or questions.

3. Monitor content

Parents should be vigilant in monitoring the types of media content their children are consuming. Exposure to violent, sexual, or otherwise inappropriate content can have negative and wide-ranging effects on child development – be aware!

4. Encourage critical thinking

Encourage children to think critically about media content by asking questions such as “What did you learn from this?” or “How would you handle this situation differently?” This can help children develop media literacy skills and promote positive media engagement.

5. Model positive media use

Children often model behavior they see in their parents. Parents should model positive media use by limiting their own screen time, engaging with media in a productive way, and discussing media content with their children.

Screen time and media content is the scourge of modern family life. Overall, the relationship between media and families can be a complex one, but with thoughtful consideration, media can be a positive and productive tool in raising children. It’s important to remember that media can expose users to new ideas and information, raise awareness of current events and issues, promote community participation and help students work with others on assignments and projects.

About the author
Sheikha Jawaher bint Abdulla Al Qassimi is the director of Sharjah Media Arts for Youth and Children (FUNN) and the curator and director of Sharjah International Film Festival for Children and Youth

A condensed version of this story also appears in the Expat Media Special Edition magazine

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