The following health and safety tips are from the American Academy of Pediatrics' guidelines for use of digital media:
Treat media as you would any other environment in your child's life.
Know your children's friends, both online and off. Know what platforms, software, and apps your children are using, where they are going on the web, and what they are doing online.
Set limits and encourage playtime.
Make unplugged playtime a daily priority, especially for very young children, and join your children in unplugged play whenever you're able.
Families who play together, learn together.
Family participation is also great for media activities — it encourages social interactions, bonding, and learning. Play a video game with your kids. It's a good way to demonstrate good sportsmanship and gaming etiquette. You can introduce and share your own life experiences and perspectives — and guidance — as you play the game.
Be a good role model.
Teach and model kindness and good manners online. And, because children are great mimics, limit your own media use.
Know the value of face-to-face communication.
Engaging in back-and-forth "talk time" is critical for language development. Conversations can be face-to-face or, if necessary, by video chat, with a traveling parent or far-away grandparent.
Create "tech-free" zones.
Keep family mealtimes and other family and social gatherings tech-free. Recharge devices overnight — outside of the bedroom — to help avoid the temptation to use them when family members should be sleeping.
Don't use technology as an emotional pacifier.
Media can be very effective in keeping kids calm and quiet, but it should not be the only way they learn to calm down. Children need to be taught how to identify and handle strong emotions, to calm down through breathing, talk about ways to solve a problem, and find other strategies for channeling emotions. They also need to learn to come up with other activities to manage boredom.
Apps for kids – do your homework.
More than 80,000 apps are labeled as "educational," but little research has demonstrated their actual quality. Products pitched as "interactive" should require more than "pushing and swiping." Look to organizations like Common Sense Media (www.commonsensemedia.org) for reviews about age-appropriate apps, games and programs to guide you in making the best choices for your children.
It's OK for your teen to be online.
Social media can support teens as they explore and discover more about themselves and their place in the grown-up world. Just be sure your teen is behaving appropriately in both the real and online worlds. Discuss how a platform's privacy settings do not make things actually "private" and that images, thoughts, and behaviors teens share online will instantly become a part of their digital footprint indefinitely. Try to handle errors with empathy and turn a mistake into a teachable moment.