Kids and Technology : How Much is Too Much?
In a time where almost anything is accessible online, technology can be both a blessing and a curse. Advancements in technology show no signs of stopping, prompting parents to question just how bad can a little screen time be? Before handing your screaming toddler that tablet to calm them down there are a few things to consider.
Your Baby / Preschooler
You may playfully hand off your phone to your curious little one because you’ve allowed yourself to grow accustomed to their calm nature when distracted with a device. When weighing a temper tantrum over thirty minutes of distraction, understandably it’s not hard to choose between the two. But while peace of mind might take priority in most situations, it is always important to consider your role in the development of your preschooler. Children under five years of age understand a lot more than we give them credit for. By your child seeing mummy constantly mesmerized by her phone, they just as well might mimic that behavior, or believe adults rely on such devices to remain happy.
The first few years of life are the ones where brain development is fastest so this time is crucial for motor skill, lingual, social and emotional development. Think, what would you like your child to draw on from their first few years – a dependency on animated touch screens, or the real objects that surround them? It’s important to establish ownership with your devices with assisted viewing, for example “This is dad’s book”, so baby doesn’t become attached to them but still notices devices that surround them.
If an apple and a piece of candy were placed before your preschooler, what would you want them to choose?
Giving unproductive screen time can be a lot like handing out candy – fine every now and then, but without moderation, has the possibility to be destructive to development.
Not only is screen time without moderation potentially harmful to your little one, it can be actually harmful to your devices. Surely if you’re a parent to a young one you’re familiar with close encounters with cracked screens, drowning devices and unusual searches that inspire you to put parental controls into effect. Control your child’s access to devices to prevent in-app purchases and other close calls.
Young Children (5-10)
At this point your child will likely be exposed to educational screen time during school hours. With all the advancements in online education, it can feel natural to allow devices to do the training. Make sure tech only completes a fraction of their education and doesn’t make up the whole pie. Let them explore their options with e-Books and other educational platforms.
It’s wise to limit access to sites that sell games, books, music etc. not only for your wallet but also so you are able to filter what tools your child can use. Without fearing being the “overprotective parent” try to make it a co-experience, eagerly trying out applications with them. Get in the habit of checking age ratings for digital content.
If it was up to your child, they’d probably like to stay up on their tablets in bed until they fall asleep. Every family has different rules, but make sure you establish device rules early on to prevent unnecessary tantrums. “No devices two hours before bed”and “No screens at the dinner table” are just a couple examples. These limit tantrums but also ensure everyone gets in quality family time.
Now more than before, kids have access to computers for all sorts of reasons whether for school or entertainment. Be firm but rational with parental controls. Kids can and will get into anything they can.
Fear for the well-being of your devices? While being financially conscious, it is perfectly reasonable to get devices for your kids or give them “hand-me-down” devices you no longer use. This way, the next time you hear “I accidentally spilled ___ on the tablet”, you won’t have a small panic worrying that it was yours. Consider keeping a family computer in a central house area like the living room so monitoring use is simple.
Kids at this age especially are used to walking to and from school and other nearby destinations. In a time where crime is unpredictable, it makes sense for many to provide their children with a phone so they are able to call known contacts in the event of an emergency. With great power comes great responsibility. Check on your child often. Cyber-bullying is a reality and it is important to note how your child is using their access in relation to their peers.
It is important to acknowledge that this is a very social age. While many parents cringe at the idea of their teen running around freely with their own cell, talking to friends you don’t know on social media, it is a reality of the technological age. Not to break your dreams of remaining their BFF into their teen years, but at this time your teen may want to expand their circle and will now be consumed by their own devices. Establish trust. If you feel the need to monitor your child’s complete activity, let them know that you have this ability before hand, so they don’t feel like their trust has been broken.
Establishing rules for their independent use is also important. When they’re on the road they should know to not text and drive. They should know not to overexpose themselves online and keep personal information to a minimum. They should understand that their devices are a tool to inform others of their well being, for example, letting you know when they arrive safely at a friend’s house.
Digital literacy is a valuable skill. If anything, tech usage should be productive in the long run. Does your teen spend countless hours installing software and learning new applications to install on their phone? Perhaps a class on programming or digital design would help them redirect that energy.
The tech age shows no signs of slowing and it is important that parents and the new generations understand the power that lies behind their fingertips. By moderating dependency on technology and encouraging smart device usage, you are aiding in bringing up an individual with the ability to change the tech age for the better.
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