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Is Media Replacing Parenting?

We live in an information age - and our kids are the ultimate receivers. Texts, social media sites, songs, movies, the Web, television, video games, advertising and almost anything else that can be digitized can be delivered to your kids anywhere they go.

This abundance of media and technology offers a new world to our children that can be full of excitement and discovery. But like everything else in life, there's a limit on how much of a good thing they should experience. It's up to parents to help them find and maintain a balance between the virtual and real worlds.

The Kaiser Family Foundation completed a study in 2010 and discovered that 8- to 18-year-olds devote an average of 7 hours and 38 minutes using entertainment media across a typical day. During that time, many are also "media multi-tasking," like texting and listening to their iPod at the same time. This means kids actually pack in a total of 10 hours and 45 minutes worth of media content into those 7 and a half hours.

Most youth say they have no rules about how much time they can spend watching TV or playing online. 

It is important for parents to put the brakes on media usage and increase their kids' face-to-face interactions with peers and adults. When the phones are shut off and the ear buds are taken out, it's astonishing what kinds of conversations can happen. And there's no better way to teach social skills to and build relationships with teenagers than spending time talking to them.

So, parents should be aware of how much time their kids are plugged in, then set rules and limits on media use. One of the best places to start is at the dinner table; make it a media-free zone. It will be hard at first but things worth doing usually are.