Family Media Plan

How to use American Academy of Pediatrics Family Media Plan tool

Last Updated on March 14, 2024

This tool is meant to be a framework of conversation to help you establish healthy boundaries around digital media use in your home.

AAP Family Media Plan can be found here:

You and your kids will talk through specific examples of responsible digital behavior, discuss the reasons behind it, you will answer your kids’ questions (or objections), and together you reach an agreement about the digital rules for the family. The idea is to have kids’ buy-in on the rules, and clearly communicate parents’ expectations. 

Family Media Rules are really a reflection of your family values, protecting what is most important in life – relationships, family time, physical health, sleep – from being displaced by mindless overuse of digital media. The plan can  be customized for each child. If you register on the site, you can save the plan you created and print it out as pdf to give to each member of the family and/or display where everyone can see it.  

The tool consists of 2 main parts: Family Media Plan and Media Time Calculator

Family Media Plan

Screen Free Zones

Assign certain areas of your home as screen-free zones. Bedroom is a must. 

Academy of Pediatrics family media plan screenshot

Screen Free Times

Make devices off limits at specific times: family dinner, before bed, homework and others. 

Academy of Pediatrics family media plan screenshot

Device Curviews

Decide when all devices are turned off for the night.

Academy of Pediatrics family media plan screenshot

Choose & Diversify Your Media

Review the content your children engage with to determine if it’s suitable:

  • If an app is labeled as “educational” or a game is promoted as “interactive”, it does not necessarily mean it is.
  • If a game, video, or app is rated age-appropriate, damaging content can still slip through (think: pornography on Instagram or Snapchat)
Academy of Pediatrics family media plan screenshot
Academy of Pediatrics family media plan screenshot

Balancing Online & Off-Line Time

Prioritize face-to-face communication and real world activities over screen time to promote children’s learning and healthy development

Academy of Pediatrics family media plan screenshot

Manners Matter

Being on the phone is just bad manners in certain situations. If they already have smartphones, teach your children to be considerate and polite. 

Academy of Pediatrics family media plan screenshot

Digital Citizenship

Discuss the serious consequences of online bullying. Protect children’s mental health from cyber-bullying. Separate them from the social media platforms where bullying occurs.

Academy of Pediatrics family media plan screenshot

Safety First

Protect children’s privacy, innocence, and physical safety from online dangers.

Academy of Pediatrics family media plan screenshot

Sleep & Exercise

Establish healthy sleep and physical fitness goals.

Academy of Pediatrics family media plan screenshot

Media time calculator

This tool is used to calculate the acceptable amount of screen time for your family

  • The time available is 24 hours. Obviously. 
  • You can add or reduce the amount of time your child spends on each activity. 
  • The calculator is already set with the recommended number of hours for sleep & physical activity, different depending on the age of each child, and you can adjust it if you wish. 
  • You can also create your own category that is specific for your family, lifestyle and traditions.
  • Once the calculator is complete, it’s easy to see how much time is left over for screen time each day.  

And that’s how screen time should be treated: as an optional activity after the essentials have been taken care of. And if on some busy days there is no time left for screen entertainment, that’s ok too. It’s not a priority. 

Academy of Pediatrics family media plan screenshot

First Things First

Media time calculator is consistent with time management parable that has been taught by experts for decades: the “rock, pebbles, and sand story.” 

What parents want kids to do:

big rocks first illustration

What kids prefer to do instead:

screen time first illustration

The jar is your available time. The big rocks are the most important things in life: education, work, relationships, self-care. The pebbles are smaller everyday tasks and chores, and the sand is the trivial entertainment stuff you can actually live without. To fill all of those into the jar, the essentials (big rocks) of sleep, nutrition, exercise, learning, relationships, family time – need to get into the “jar of time” FIRST, pebbles second, and then, if there is space left over for desirable non-essentials like Minecraft and YouTube, by all means, go for it – but they should not be the first priority.

Our kids prefer to do it backwards: first fill out their jars with sand of digital time-wasters, then rush through homework and meals and chores (small pebbles), and have no time left for the really important things in life – their health, their relationships, their mind. The jar is full before important stuff gets a chance of fitting in.

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