In today’s digital age, the role of a parent has changed a lot. Whether you like it or not, technology is impacting kids’ habits on multiple levels and it’s here to stay. Just look at 2-year-olds who seem to perfectly understand how our phones and tablets work.
So, even if you still believe in traditional methods of parenting, kids’ use of tech is not something you can afford to ignore. Your goal as a parent it to adapt your guidance as a parent to the demands of the digital age, teach children to use technology in a healthy way, and become responsible digital citizens.
One of the most common dilemmas parents face is whether they should limit kids’ usage of technology or not. Well, just like with any other potentially harmful activity, parents need to control their children’s use of technology and create safe and creative environments for them.
Here are a few practical tips on how to keep your children safe online and, at the same time, gain their trust.
Use a Balanced Approach
When applied properly, technology is our door to the massive sources of information, letting us learn new things faster, communicate with people from all around the world, and express our creativity. Worried about their children having access to inappropriate content or spending most of their time staring at their screens, parents usually decide to ban their kids from using tech and social networks. Many Silicon Valley’s tech moguls do the same.
Unfortunately, this is never a good idea. Just think about people who are trying to lose weight or eat healthier. Instead of ditching candy and dessert forever, they will simply reduce their intake and use them alongside some healthier foods.
The same applies to the use of tech:
- Let your kids use tech creatively. An hour spent watching an interactive and educational program is not the same as an hour spent watching an overly aggressive cartoon. Many apps and games are labeled as interactive, but if you do your research, you will see that this is not necessarily so. Always choose creative and thought-provoking programs that require more than swiping the screen.
- It’s important to ensure that your kids’ tech usage never interfaces their in-person interactions, physical activity, sleep, or school obligations.
- Establish screen time limits. There is a heated debate about how many hours children should spend in front of their screens daily. Regardless of your choices, one thing remains the same – you should introduce the rules for tech-free times and zones, such as during the walk, in the car, during family mealtimes, etc.
Adapt the Use of Tech to a Kid’s Age
As your kids grow, their perceptions and usage of modern technologies changes. Your goal is to make sure that your kids are using websites and apps appropriate for their age and teach them about healthy tech habits.
As for babies and toddlers, you should never use technology as an emotional pacifier. It’s fine to familiarize them with the concept of technology, but remember that their brain develops fastest during the first three years of life. This is the most vital period for the development of speaking, emotional, social, and motor skills, so minimize the exposure to TV and cartoons and focus more on real-life experiences.
As your kid grows, they’ll be using new technologies everywhere. This is exactly when you should act as their mentor and teach them how to tech as a purposeful tool:
- If a kid needs a computer for homework, help them set up Windows or macOS accounts that have built-in parental controls, letting you set time limits and manage their use of the internet.
- Use parental controls on all devices. For example, iPhone or iPad parental controls can be found in Settings > General > Restrictions. This is where you can disable all apps that are not appropriate for your kids, restrict their access to certain media and sites, turn off Siri, etc.
- Choose apps and programs that encourage their creativity, teach them about the basics of cybersecurity through visualizations and realistic examples, inform them about the perils of cyberbullying and teach them how to handle it.
Be your Kids’ Role Model
Children watch us binge watching our favorite Netflix shows, spend countless hours on social, or take selfies multiple times daily. We’re the ones introducing them to new technologies. From the moment they’re born, we’re chasing them around with our phones, taking countless photos and filming every step they take. Worse yet, we tend to share these photos and videos with hundreds (or even thousands) of our followers on social networks. This causes multiple problems in a kid’s behavior, including the impact on their self-awareness, emotions, and memories. Not to mention the famous “If it’s not on Facebook, it didn’t happen” attitude we’re seeing daily while browsing our news feeds.
Most importantly, children feel like they need to compete with our mobile phone or laptop for our attention. According to the recent research study, more than half of parents said technology interferes their communication with kids at least three times daily.
These facts teach us an important lesson – our kids look up to us. Therefore, to teach them to use technologies properly, you should start by revising your habits first. Mind how and when you use your phone, who you add and what you post on social networks, and how much time you spend in front of your TV.
Consult Kids when Making Decisions
As a parent, you should help your kids understand that their opinions and attitudes are valued. You should involve them in all important day-to-day decision-making processes, such as who to invite to their birthday or who’s responsible for doing the dishes. The same goes for decisions related to technology.
For example, let your kids have their role in establishing their limits and they’ll be more likely to respect them. When setting tech-free zones or screen time limits, make sure everyone’s on board.
Also, show that you’re interested in what they’re doing online and be involved in their experiences. By engaging in stuff they’re engaging, you will have insights into the content they’re accessing, create share experiences, and gain their trust. For example, if they’re playing a game, ask them to teach to – this is an amazing confidence booster for a kid.
Over to You
In today’s hyperconnected era, it’s difficult to prevent kids from using tech. However, as a parent, your goal is to teach a kid to use their resources properly. Balance the use of tech, restrict the access to content inappropriate for their age, engage in the content relevant to them, and create tech-free zones. Most importantly, start by changing your tech habits, as your child absorb and copy them.
Hope this helps!