In addition to the relationship between electronic screen use, sleep deprivation, and depression we discovered in yesterday’s PediaBlog post, pediatric experts worry about other teenage health risk behaviors (HRBs) associated with media and technology:

Accumulating evidence reveals that youth media exposure to health risk behaviors (HRBs) (eg, risky sexual behavior, substance use) during the preteen years is associated with increased risk for subsequent engagement in HRBs, and greater intensity of exposure leads to greater youth risk.


Electronic media has infiltrated practically every sector of child and adolescent life, not to mention the lives of the adults who love them. Writing in this month’s Pediatrics, Dartmouth researchers propose TECH parenting for “media management of preadolescent use”:

T: Talk to Kids About Media Use and Monitor Their Media-Related Activities

Parents should talk to children about media regularly because kids’ preferences and/or behaviors can change quickly over time.

E: Educate Children About the Risks Present Across Various Forms of Media

Parents need to educate youth on negative consequences of violence, substance use, and risky sexual behavior, especially if youth are exposed to inaccurate media depictions of HRBs.

Beyond depictions of behavior, children need to learn how to interpret advertising that promotes certain product-related behaviors, such as drinking or smoking.

C: Co-view and Co-use Media With Kids Actively

Active co-viewing and co-use of media can help parents learn about evolving media, such as video games and social media applications, allowing parents to more effectively and comprehensively monitor children’s media use. Parents can also use this time to teach their children to develop healthy online behaviors and help children recognize and respond to inappropriate content (eg, alert an adult). Parents should model good media decision-making by only co-viewing content that is age-appropriate for their child. In addition, parents should talk to their children about media containing sex, violence, or substance use immediately and consider turning off the inappropriate content. If parents co-view media with their children without addressing the risk content within it, it could be perceived as passive endorsement of the behaviors depicted, potentially increasing youth risk for engagement in those behaviors.

H: Establish Clear and Effective House Rules for Media Usage

1. Designate media-free zones in your home (eg, dinner table, children’s bedrooms).

• Children with media-free bedrooms get more sleep at night, perform better in school, and are less likely to be overweight.


2. Only allow media use after homework and physical activity have been completed.

• Kids who use less screen-based media report better social and emotional functioning.


3. Store all digital technology in a central house location (not in bedrooms) overnight at least 1 hour before bedtime.

• Use of screened media immediately before bedtime can interfere with sleep patterns and impact educational performance.

• Notifications from digital devices can interrupt sleep.


4. Review applications, Web sites, video games, or social media programs your child uses.

 • Some applications contain information gathering and location tracking of which youth may not be aware.

 • Review social media activity; youth may not understand the long-term and public nature of posting information on the Internet.


5. Be explicit about allowable movie and television show ratings and content your children can watch.

• Youth whose parents allow them to watch R-rated movies are at higher risk for underage smoking, alcohol use, and cannabis use.

• Television shows rated above TV-Y7 include significantly greater amounts of sex, smoking, and alcohol use. Media ratings provide information about age-appropriateness of content for children, although some behaviors (eg, violence and substance use) are not well captured in ratings.

• Technological controls on cell phones, computers, or televisions can be used to constrain youth exposure to age-appropriate content.


The AAP can help you get started on your family’s Media Use Plan here.


( / Grand Avenue by Mike Thompson)