Quick Reference Guide to Media & Child Health


Use Your Pause Button

Take a moment and read labels, critical reviews, and use media before introducing it to your child.

Always be mindful and make sure any media that is introduced to your infant, child, tween, or teen is developmentally appropriateDevelopmentally appropriate practice (DAP) is a perspective within the child development field where a parent or caregiver nurtures a child’s social, emotional, physical, and cognitive development by basing all methods and decisions on grounded theories of child development and children’s individually identified strengths.. A great rule of thumb is to read labels and critical reviews of any media product you are considering, then take a moment to use the media first before introducing it to your child, and refer to the Entertainment Software Rating Board [ESRB] for reviews on video games and apps. At SUNKISSED FAMILIES our emphasis is your child’s social and emotional health and, when it comes to screen time we believe less can be more!

Our introduction to media and child health serves as a reference tool for parents to visit again and again so they can help their children create and consume media in ways that can augment their children’s social and emotional health.

Birth – 1 year: Quick Reference Media Guide

Foster trust & promote hope through Music & Books.

Read Aloud, Listen to Music, & Sing with your infant!

Infancy is an exciting and critical time in your child’s life. They are new to this world, which means their brain is experiencing a lot of “firsts.” They are detecting and processing each of the sounds and visuals they are exposed to. To encourage their healthy brain and language development engage with them each day with activities like reading aloud, listening to music, and singing. When you actively engage and use a warm and sensitive approach it promotes a strong, loving bond between you and your infant, which fosters their healthy sense of trust in you and the world around them.

The American Academy of Pediatric (AAP) recommends avoiding all screen media for children under the age of two. SUNKISSED FAMLIES suggests parents wait, to the best of their abilities, until the age of three. At SUNKISSED FAMLIES our emphasis is on your child’s social and emotional health and, when it comes to screen time for infants and toddlers, we believe less is more.

This first year in your child’s life is the perfect time to engage them in [developmentally appropriate] exploration and experimentation. Screen media Television and other entertainment media should be avoided for infants and children under the age of 2. A child’s brain develops rapidly during the first years, and young children learn best by interacting with people, not screens. Visit www.AAP.org. can interfere with these important moments and can inhibit an infant’s language acquisition – so read, sing, and connect with your infant by disconnecting from the screen.

ReferencesAmerican Academy of Pediatrics, Org. Berk, Sousa, 2011. Isalm et al. Zimmerman, Chirstakis, Meltzoff, 2007.

1 – 3 Years: Quick Reference Media Guide

Foster a healthy sense of autonomy and promote will through printed books, music, and musical environments.

Read aloud, Listen to Music, Engage with Musical Instruments & Musical Environments:

Toddlers are beginning to utilize their wonderful and newly acquired mental skillsthe set of trainable mental abilities and methods that are held to support successful learning and performance. The basic mental skills include concentration, goal-setting, imagery and mental rehearsal relaxation and self-talk. Also known as cognitive skills and psychological skills. and motor skillsa coordinated pattern of movements acquired through practice involving the ability to execute movements effectively to achieve intended outcomes. Gross motor skill movement involving the coordinated use of large muscle groups, such as when kicking a ball. Fine motor skill movement involving the ability to manipulate small objects.. They are also beginning to exercise their will and make decisions for themselves, which can include preferences for certain books and music.

When introducing media, parents and caregivers are encouraged to provide developmentally appropriate Developmentally appropriate practice (DAP) is a perspective within the child development field where a parent or caregiver nurtures a child’s social, emotional, physical, and cognitive development by basing all methods and decisions on grounded theories of child development and children’s individually identified strengths. music and printed books for their toddlers. Reading aloud to toddlers and affectionately, but not forcefully, encouraging them to read along, in addition to engaging them with music and musical environments that can include singing, dancing, and experimenting with toddler-friendly musical instruments are excellent ways to nurture toddlers’ language acquisition, foster their sense of independence, executive function A set of mental skills that help individuals to get things done. These skills are controlled by an area of the brain called the frontal lobe. and self-regulation The ability to monitor and control our own behavior, emotions, or thoughts, modifying them in harmony with the demands of the situation. It includes the abilities to restrain first responses, to resist interference from extraneous stimulation, and to continue on relevant tasks even when we may not enjoy them. skills.

While it’s essential to foster your child’s independence during this time, take time to balance those opportunities with your active engagement. When you provide warm, sensitive eye contact during these and other activities it will strengthen your toddler’s developing sense of self of who they are and what they are capable of while also nurturing that important bond between you and your toddler.

At SUNKISSED FAMILIES we believe that no matter the activity, a toddler’s sense of defeat can arise from too little or too much training. Extreme approaches can instill shame and uncertainty in your child whether or not it was your intention. Therefore, it is critical for parents and other caregivers to foster, not force, their children’s sense of will in a way that promotes their internal and external sense that it’s okay to be who they are.

ReferencesBerk L. (2009), Child Development 9th ed. Boston: Pearson Education Inc.
Center on the Developing Child (2015). Key concepts: executive function. Retrieved from http://developingchild.harvard.edu/key_concepts/executive_function/.
Coles, R. (2000). The Erikson Reader. New York, NY: W.W. Norton & Company.
Sousa, D.A. (2011). How the brain learns. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.
McClelland, M. M., Cameron, C. E., Duncan, R., Bowles, R. Acock, A., Miano, A., & Pratt, M. E. (2014). Predictors of early growth in academic achievement: the head to toes, knees, & shoulders task. Frontiers in Psychology 5, 599.
Parklakian, R. & Lerner C. (2010). Beyond twinkle, twinkle: using music with infants and toddlers. Young Children, 65(2), 14-19.

3 – 6 Years: Quick Reference Media Guide

Foster initiative and promote purpose through printed & digital books, music, musical environments, photography, and well-designed educational & developmentally appropriate programs and movies.

Read aloud, Listen to Music, Engage with Musical Instruments & Musical Environments, Take Photographs, Watch TV & Movies:

Between the ages of three and six years old children are transitioning from toddler to school age and are actively engaging with other children through make-believe play. These experiences can help them to experiment with the kind of person they can become; a ball-playing ballerina for example. StudiesBergen & Mauer, 2000; Berk, 2006; Elias & Berk, 2002; Kavanaugh & Engel, 1998; Lindsey & Colwell, 2003; Ruff & Capozzoli, 2003, cited in Berk, 2009.
Berk, L., Meyers, A. B. (2013). The Role of Make-Believe Play in the Development of Executive Function. Status of Research and Future Directions. The American Journal of Play. 6(1), 98-110. http://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/EJ1016170.pdf.
Note: child-directed make-believe play is one of multiple potential routes to executive functioning development.
suggest this type of child-directed play can also reinforce the development of their executive functioning skills.

Like make-believe play, media is filled with imaginary events and people. Children can become confused by a storyline or have trouble distinguishing fantasy from reality. When parents take time to co-view media with their children it allows children the opportunity to ask questions as they arise and provide them with healthy guidance and perspective while fostering a healthy parent-child relationship.

When it comes to overseeing children’s media parents should allow children healthy controls, but should be mindful of advertisers. Advertisements appear on many media platforms and can have powerful, adverse affects, which can influence a child’s perspective. Parents can help reduce advertisement exposure by introducing children to commercial-free programming or by pre-recording a program and fast-forwarding through the commercials. This can help children stay engaged in the story without the distraction of advertisers.

Remember that music is media, too, and when it comes to music, exposing children to developmentally appropriate musical environments like musical instruments and early music instruction can support various facets of children’s development. Listening to music and reading books that offer rhythm and cadence can positively influence brain development in addition to promoting vocabulary and reading comprehension

Allow your child to have fun with media! Co-viewing, exposing them to musical environments, limiting video games to short trips in the car, introducing them to photography, and referring to the ESRB beforehand can enhance any media experience for you and your child.

ReferencesBergen & Mauer, 2000; Berk, 2006; Elias & Berk, 2002; Kavanaugh & Engel, 1998; Lindsey & Colwell, 2003; Ruff & Capozzoli, 2003, cited in Berk, 2009.
Berk, L., Meyers, A. B. (2013). The Role of Make-Believe Play in the Development of Executive Function. Status of Research and Future Directions. The American Journal of Play. 6(1), 98-110. http://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/EJ1016170.pdf.
Berk, L. (2009). Child Development 9th ed. Boston: Pearson Education Inc.
Coles, R. (2000). The Erikson Reader. New York, NY: W.W. Norton & Company.
Center on Media & Child Health (2015).
Sousa, D.A. (2011). How the brain learns. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.

6 – 12 Years: Quick Reference Media Guide

Foster children’s skills & abilities and promote competence through printed and digital books, music & musical instruments, cameras, journal apps, online diaries, digital book creators & scrapbooks.

Read aloud or silently, Engage with Musical Instruments & Musical Environments, Take Photographs, Watch TV & Movies, Express Yourself through Journal Apps, On-line Diaries, Digital Book Creators & Scrapbooks:

Your child is at the age when they are developing the capacity to work and cooperate with others making it an opportune time for you to introduce your child to [age appropriate] duties and responsibilities.  Whether or not they have been given chores or other tasks in the past, it’s important to keep in mind that children have a wonderful capacity to learn and work.  And, when children exercise consistent work practices amongst supportive parents, teachers, and peers they are more likely to experience a personal sense of achievement.  Children’s awareness of their abilities can promote their sense of competence and inspire them to be productive; to share, cooperate, problem-solve, and express empathy for others.  In contrast, it’s equally important to understand that children can also develop a sense of inferiority.  These feelings can arise from a child’s of inability or failure to achieve certain things.  When speaking with your child remove any judgments or impulses you may have to fix the situation for them.  It’s important to listen and acknowledge what your child is saying.  By demonstrating support you will foster their trust in you and the likelihood they will continue to share their feelings with you.  Your acknowledgment, understanding, and guidance can also nurture your child’s emotional intelligenceEmotional intelligence [EI]: is the ability to identify and manage one’s own emotions and the emotions of others. EI commonly includes three skills:
1. Emotional awareness, including the ability to identify your own emotions and those of others;
2. The ability to harness emotions and apply them to tasks like thinking and problems solving;
3. The ability to manage emotions, including the ability to regulate your own emotions, and the ability to cheer up or calm down another person
, language development, and those wonderful qualities that can help them to develop a healthy sense of what they are capable of.

When selecting media, include your child in the decision-making process. During this process, guide your child toward media that [is developmentally appropriate and] promotes sharing, cooperation, and problem-solving.  Print, screen, photography, and music media can be effective tools to enhance these skills and may introduce children to worlds and cultures unique to their own!  And, when children are ready to express all that they have learned and imagined there are journal apps, online diaries, digital book creators and scrapbooks specially designed for their age group.  These platforms allow children to share and preserve their memories, discuss topics that interest them, and help them to think critically about the content they produce and consume.

It’s also important for parents to teach children about advertisers and advertisements.  Ads can contain messages that can positively or negatively influence children’s perceptions.  Teaching children to be media literate will provide them with insight to choose media that supports their healthy social and emotional development.

Engaging in music through listening, singing, and creating music can do wonderful things for children!  It can foster peer relationships, nurture children’s sense of competence, and promote their ability to share and cooperate with others.  Websites like Commonsense Media  can support children’s emerging taste in music with reviews and suggestions designed for their particular age group.  Music can also provide the stimuli to encourage aerobic movement including dance and other high or low impact exercises.  Studies have found that when children participate in regular aerobic exercise it can increase their working memory, enhance their attention span, and their capacity to inhibit disruptive impulses.

For parents that are considering introducing social networking sites to your child, it’s important to know that most sites require children to be at least 13 years old.  However, there are chat rooms that are considered safe and designed for children 7-11 years old.  Commonsense Media provides a list of these chat rooms and other sites for children and parents to survey.  These sites can provide an innocuous landscape for children to explore and reinforce their sense of competence.

Of course, many media devices are mobile.  Therefore, parents are encouraged to consider the maturity level of their child before deciding to give them their own device.  For children who have their own device, turning them off and away from family conversations, including mealtime, and charging them in a parent’s bedroom each night can provide families with quality time and help mitigate some of the negative experiences associated with mobile media.  Of course, this has the greatest chance of generating wonderful outcomes when parents adhere to these policies, too!  Media is here to stay, so take time to disconnect from your screen and connect with your child.

ReferencesAloqaili, A. S. (2012). The relationship between reading comprehension and critical thinking: A theoretical study. Journal of King Saud University-Languages and Translation, 24(1), 35-41.
Berk, L. E. (2009). Child development (8th ed.). Boston, MA: Pearson.
Boyland, E. J. & Halford, J. C. G. (2013). Television and branding: Effects on eating, behavior, and food preferences in children. Appetite, 62(1), 236-241.
Coles, R. (2000). The Erikson reader. New York, N.Y.: W.W. Norton & Company.
Commonsense Media (2015). Music apps. Retrieved from https://www.commonsensemedia.org/search/music%20apps.
Davis, S. (2015). Is your child ready for a cell phone? Consider the fine print before you let your child go mobile, WebMD. Retrieved from www.webmd.com/children/features/children-and-cell-phones.
Paul, A. M. (2013). The science of smart: the surprising way to improve executive function. Retrieved from http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/blogs/secretlife/blogposts/the-science-of-smart-surprising-way-to-improve-executive-function/.

12 – 18 Years: Quick Reference Media Guide

Foster a child’s personal identity and promote their sense of loyalty & support through Digital & Printed books, Digital Book Creators, Musical Instruments & Musical Environments, Digital & Video Cameras, TV and Movies, in addition to online Journals & Scrapbook Creators.

Read Digital & Printed Books, Create Fiction & non-Fiction stories, Engage with Musical Instruments & Musical Environments, Choose from a variety of Cameras & Take Photographs, Create Videos & Short Films, Watch TV & Movies, Express yourself through On-line Diaries, Digital Books Creators & Scrapbooks:

Adolescence is an experience of its own.  It’s a vortex of biological and social forces that come together and can greatly influence an adolescent’s thoughts and opinions.  As parents we know this, because we experienced it ourselves.  It’s also a time of personal discovery.  Questions of who am I? and where do I fit in? begin to churn in teens as they explore their values, new relationships, and vocational goals.  By allowing your adolescent to make choices and develop personal interests, you are actually helping them to become effect thinkers and problem solvers, which starts with Is it possible? and can progress into Can it become a reality?

While a teenager’s loyalty and support plays a significant role in sustaining bonds with their peers, teenagers also want to see themselves as unique in addition to integrated individuals.  Exploring musical interests through formal music instruction and musical collaboration with peers can support their development.  In addition, online journaling and developing a personal profile on social media networking sites can help adolescents to share their ethnic and cultural traditions that may be interesting to their peers.  There are also a plethora of apps for adolescents to choose from that can embolden their sense of identity.  In addition to journal and music apps, adolescents can create on-line diaries and stories with digital book creators, and share and preserve memories with digital scrapbooks.  These media activities can promote cross-cultural sensitivity – an awareness, knowledge and acceptance of others – while simultaneously cultivating an adolescent’s sense of personal identity.

Cameras, video cameras, and mobile devicesSuch as a camera on a smart phone. can also be creative tools for teenagers to explore, develop and share with peers.  Stills and videos that highlight personal and common interests can be uploaded and shared online.  Parents can help adolescents to foster a secure sense of identity and peer relationships by supporting the individuality of their children and of others.

When it comes to television and movies, parents are strongly encouraged to continue co-viewing with their teenagers.  Watching media with teenagers can spark meaningful conversations about complicated subjects such as sex, violence, relationships, personal identity, and substance abuse.  Books (print and digital) can also help spark those same conversations.  Books that contain matureage appropriate themes can help adolescents develop critical thinking skills while they are learning about themselves and the world around them.  In addition, it might be helpful to know that the American Library Association (ALA) offers a division dedicated to reviewing books for young adults and can help teenagers locate books with themes that interest them.

Parents are also encouraged to foster a healthy relationship with your child’s teacher(s).  Developing a constructive parent-teacher relationship can have multiple benefits including a rich understanding of what types of media and how much media your teen in engaging with and how much, in addition to understanding how well their child is socializing with their peers.  This positive tripartiteIn this instance, the relationship between your child, their teacher, and the parent. relationship can help adolescents feel like the important people in their life are working together.

Engaging with various forms of media inside and outside the classroom can benefit adolescent communication, social connection, and promote their sense of identity.  Social media sites, with policies and standards, such as Facebook provide adolescents the opportunity to connect with peers and share common and individual interests.  Studies show that teenagers log on to their favorite social media site(s) multiple times per day and that the vast majority of teenagers own a smart phone, which they use for texting, instant messaging, and to engage with social networking sites.

The FCCFederal Communications Commission and the FTCFederal Trade Commission have limited capacity for the regulation of social networking sites, which can leave adolescents susceptible to peer pressure and at risk as they navigate their social media landscape.  Studies indicate that frequent online behaviors of bullying, clique-forming, and sexual experimentation have introduced issues such as cyber-bullying, privacy issues, and sexting.  Teaching media literacy to adolescents and making regular time to discuss their daily experiences can help teens to become critical consumers of media and foster your relationship with your child.

Many parents who utilize technology are media savvy, however, others lack a rudimentary understanding of these new forms of socialization, which have become a fundamental part of adolescents’ lives.  Ultimately, parents need to be media literate by developing a deep-seated understanding of the media their children are exposed to inside and outside the home.  Developing these skills and awareness will ultimately connect the disconnect that can exist in an online world between parents and their children.

ReferencesBerk, L. E. (2009). Child development (8th ed.). Boston, MA: Pearson.
Center on Media and Child Health (2015). Parent’s Home. Retrieved from
Coles, R. (2000). The Erikson reader. New York, N.Y.: W.W. Norton & Company.
Commonsense Media (2015). Music apps. Retrieved from https://www.commonsensemedia.org/search/music%20apps.
McDowell, D. J. & Parke, R. D. (2009). Parental correlates of children’s peer relations:
an empirical test of the tripartite model. Developmental Psychology, 45(1), 224-235.
O’Keefe, G. S. & Clarke-Pearson, K. (2011). The impact of social media on children,
adolescents, and families. Pediatrics, 127, 800-804.
Rideout, V. J., Foehr, U., & Roberts, D. F. (2010). Generation M2: Media in the lives of
8-18 year olds. Kaiser Family Foundation Study. http://kff.org/other/poll-finding/report-generation-m2-media-in-the-lives/.
Rosenthal, D. A., Gurney, R. M., & Moore S. M. (1981). From trust to intimacy: A new
inventory for examining Erikson’s stages of psychosocial development. Journal
of Youth & Adolescence, 10, 525-537.
Seon-Kyoung, A. & Doohwang, L. (2010). An integrated model of parental mediation.
Asian Journal of Communication, 20(4), 389-403.


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