Computers were first welcomed into our homes about 40 years ago and fast forwarding to today, I think it is safe to say that you’d have to look very hard, to find a home that doesn’t have one. The introduction of the internet and mobile devices have made computing even more accessible to the point that, you’ve got toddlers that can find their way around these mobile devices before they have even uttered their first word! In some cases, the mobile device has replaced the pacifier.
So, are we as parents doing our kids any good by handing them the ‘handies’ – because let’s face it, it is a really handy option, to have any of your mobile devices to hand, as it provides your child with a welcoming distraction and it is also entertaining. Are we doing a disservice to their brains every time we hand them these mobile devices?
Quite a bit of research has been done into children’s use of technology and the outcome has been mixed, to say the least. Whilst some experts feel that children should not be exposed at all, others believe that it is ok, provided a balance is found.
We live in a digital world, where everything around us is continually becoming digitalised and I think we can all agree that all of that is here to stay – so, short of us becoming digitalised or pixilated (who knows what the future holds....lol), we do need to get with the programme (excuse the pun...ha).
So how can modern parents implement positive parenting techniques to help manage their children’s tech time?
Be a good role model
We know that it is not just our children’s use of technology that is the problem, but we also have digitally distracted adults that are not able to provide that connection and attention that children need in order to develop essential life skills.
What you find is that even though parents and children may be within close proximity of one another, they are talking less to each other, so change does need to start with ‘self’ before you can address that of your child.
The less time you spend on your own device, the more time you will have, to connect and interact with your child.
Strike the balance
As already, stated, perhaps finding a balance might an option, after all, not all tech time is a waste of time. How much of the time spent on these devices is passive (watching tv etc) as opposed to interactive (learning a skill, being creative etc)?
Is there a scheduled time for this activity so that your child can simply walk away once the time is up, or do you face resistance because he/ she feels the time wasn’t enough?
Not sure how much time is being spent on these devices....? Try keeping a ‘Tech Logging system’, to monitor the amount of time each child spends on tech activities.
Make it a family activity
Don’t just monitor your children online, co-engage with them, when they are on any of the devices, play a game with them – this is a good way to teach them about the etiquettes of gaming and good sportsmanship. Watch a show with them and discuss characters, aspects of the show and introduce/share your own life experiences and perspectives.
Tech time with your child can encourage social interactions as well as give you the opportunity to have a better understanding of what they are doing and also become a part of it.
Set family rules
Create screen -free areas in the home e.g. the bedroom, or set device/screen free times e.g. mealtimes.
You could even decide to limit the number of devices taken out on a family trip – perhaps one, for (and just for) emergencies. Leave phones in other rooms when at home and in order not to succumb to boredom, look into family orientated tech activities, as per the previous point.
App and away with the Apps for homework/learning
Yes, the trend is leaning more towards apps for learning, online digital learning platforms. As a result, the market for learning or educational apps is booming like never before, with tens of thousands of apps being labelled as educational. There is, however, very little research that has proven their actual quality and, there has to be more than just ‘swipes and pushes’, to a product being marketed as ‘interactive’.
Without promoting any one service in this blog, on a general note, it’s always best to have a look at the reviews on any product you decide to invest in, for your child; to see if it will cater to the needs you have in mind.
Talk to your child
Above all, we do need to talk our children about the dangers of the internet; about the importance of privacy settings etc. They should also be advised that social media, gaming / chat rooms etc could have predators, looking to contact and exploit children. They do need to be made aware of some of the signs. Have a look at some of the links below, for more advice on the signs.
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