Technology has permeated our lives than never before. It has made our lives easier, but it’s also given many a heavy dependence on technology.
The problems from overexposure to technology can range in severity. This could be a teenager who never puts their phone down to a workaholic that never gets away from the computer. Excessive screen time has also led to decisions such the World Health Organization announcing a gaming disorder.
Completely banning your children from technology isn’t the way to go, though. After all, they’ll need to use it in their life eventually. It’s best to introduce technology to your child in a certain way to find a happy medium between overuse and a lack of any exposure.
Wait to Introduce Them to Tech
The first thing to consider is in introducing your children to technology is when it’s appropriate to do so. PBS suggests waiting until your child is around the age that they would go to preschool.
A big part of this is that your child spends time when they are very young exploring the world around them. This is when they are learning to speak, grabbing at toys and items, and trying to learn as much as they can.
If a child’s world is immediately narrowed to a screen, it isn’t good for them. It’s better to introduce them to technology once they’ve had a chance to develop at least to the age 4 or 5.
Supervision Is Key
Once a child is being introduced to technology, it’s a bad idea to just give them a tablet or phone and let them run wild. Instead, supervise their time on the device. Typically, it’s recommended to supervise children’s time on technology until they’re at least 11 to 13.
Part of this is that you want to engage your child while they use technology rather than just allow them to be sucked in. For instance, if you are introducing your child to technology by starting with an iPhone and they are playing a game, join in. Even if you don’t directly play with them, ask them questions as they go along.
It’s also a good idea to make sure that your children don’t access anything you wouldn’t want them to. When it comes to most devices, you can use parental controls to block access to certain things. Some platforms – such as Netflix and YouTube – also have kids versions of their sites to help parents out.
Control Screen Time
Controlling screen time is something that parents might be used in reference to the TV. For other electronic devices, the rule is the same.
According to some measurements, kids between the ages of 8 and 18 tend to spend an average of 7 hours a day looking at a screen. This is 5 hours more than the American Heart Association recommends daily. For children 5 and under, they recommend a max of an hour of screen time a day – if at all.
One of the main recommendations to help limit screen time is to not put technology in their bedrooms. For instance, an 8-year-old probably doesn’t need to have a laptop to watch a streaming service on right beside their bed.
This also brings up the question of when a child should have a cell phone of their own. This is a question that deviates from the sole factor of a child’s age. Most recommend taking your child’s maturity into account. Would they be aware enough to only use their phones as needed? Or would they run up the bill with overuse?
In today’s world, another factor in deciding if a child should have a phone is necessity. For example, if your child spends a lot of time out with friends or participating in after-school activities, you may want them to have a way to contact you.
When giving your child a phone, it’s a good idea to set ground rules for how they should use the phone.
Give Your Kids Two Phones (Really!)
It might sound counterintuitive but giving your kids two phones might just be the solution to them needed to contact you but limiting use. Let me explain further.
I wanted my sons to be able to contact me if they needed me. However, just giving them an iPhone was a quick way to watch them reach (and overreach!) their screen time limits. I didn’t want to take their phones away, but I wanted to limit screen time.
The solution to this was that I got my kids two phones. First, I got them an older LG model – a “beater” phone that they can make calls, text, and even search something online if they need to. It simply isn’t a high-performance model, though, and – despite my son’s many attempts – they can’t download games like Fortnite that will increase screen time.
Secondly, I got them an iPhone. After unlocking the iPhone, they can switch their SIM card into this phone to text and call as well as use it to watch videos, play game, etc. Their use of this phone is limited to one hour a day, so I can better control their tech habits.
Create Spaces Without Technology
There should be times or places in your home where technology isn’t allowed either. This helps to teach children when it’s appropriate to use technology as well as limiting their screen time.
A great space to bar technology is the dinner table. During this time, family members engage with one another and have some tech-free time. In addition, it teaches children that it’s rude to have their heads in their phones when someone is trying to converse with them.
Practice What You Preach
As with anything you try to teach your kids, it’s important to practice what you preach. If you are teaching your child that technology isn’t something to be used constantly, don’t spend all day on your phone. Kids will follow what you do just as much – if not more – than what you say.
By Annabel Short, who is a mother, blogger and a lifelong techy. Writing about healthier lifestyles, safety online as well as about her various hobbies she strives to bring awareness to all the topics that can help others.