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Back-to-school test: Do try this at home!

  • Josh Shipp helps parents understand teens and teens understand themselves
  • He says a break from all forms of media might be the best way to start a new school year
  • He says this test isn't just for the kids -- it's for the parents, too!
Back-to-school test: Do try this at home!
Josh Shipp

Editor’s note: Josh Shipp is the author of "The Teen's Guide to World Domination" and founder of Youth Speaker University. He is on Twitter.

Preparation for success in school has nothing to do with new clothes or school supplies and everything to do with a parent’s ability to positively influence their student’s mindset.

You can't force your kid to succeed, but you can influence him/her, which ultimately leads to success. I’ve found that one of the best ways to transition kids into a new mindset is to schedule a “media fast.”

Yes, you heard me right. A media fast. From 100% of media. This coming from a guy who hosts TV shows. 

Let me explain why I'm not completely bonkers… 

According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, children eight to 18 years old spend more time in front of a screen than in front of a teacher. Surprisingly, they spend the same amount of time mesmerized by media (7 hours and 38 minutes a day!) during the school year as they do during the summer. Most students who enter classrooms today walk through the doors with their eyes glued to an electronic screen, and teachers are concerned

Common Sense Media conducted a national survey of teachers and identified five negative effects of media on a child’s academic success: 

  1. Shorter attention span
  2. Poor writing skills
  3. Refusing to make homework a priority
  4. Awkward social skills
  5. Failure to think critically  

So, what’s a parent to do? I recommend a media detox (like you yourself might do with sugar or caffeine, for example). Give your kids time to clear their systems of the massive amounts of media they’ve consumed over the summer. My advice is to take them off electronics “cold turkey” for three consecutive weeks. 

Expect some serious resistance. Maybe even twitching. Remember, this is an opportunity to teach your children that change never comes easy and is always worth it. 

The media detox should result in the following benefits: 

  • It will free up brain space for students to make academics a priority. There is nothing wrong with a bored kid who suddenly shows interest in academics.
  • They’ll be more likely to get eight hours of sleep every night, which will enable them to function at a greater capacity.
  • It will help them focus on human relationships.
  • It will help them transition into a mindset focused on achievement rather than entertainment. 

While your kids are detoxing, teach them that entertainment is a privilege granted as a reward for hard work and responsibility. Discuss ways that your student can earn back their media and how it can fit into a responsible lifestyle. For example, kids could enjoy two hours of entertainment media on school days when they are carrying satisfactory grades in all classes, completing all their chores, treating their parents and siblings with respect and choosing appropriate (and parent-approved) websites, shows or games.

Educational researchers agree that parents’ beliefs strongly influence children’s behavior. But believing something alone isn’t enough. Parents who set boundaries and hold to them raise children who have the strongest chance to grow into healthy, successful adults.

So I challenge you to try a media fast with your kids. Commit to being a parent who leads by example. Join in the fast and see how it changes your relationships, your priorities and your life as you model for your children the value of learning and growing.

It could be one of the best investments you make in your child’s success. 

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