With the introduction of smartphones and tablets into the home, parenting has become more challenging. How much time should children be allowed to spend on these devices and how does this technology affect your child’s development?
It is difficult enough being a parent, without the added pressures of having to raise your children in an age where there is so much information at their fingertips. With the Internet and television, children are exposed to so much more now than they were a few years ago. Therefore, as a parent it is
important to monitor and ensure that your child is safe in the digital sphere.
Tips for looking after your kids in the digital age
1. Monitor what your kids are doing online.
Whether your child is going to a friend’s house for a sleep over or on a school trip, as a parent you make it your duty to know every detail of your child’s activities. Therefore, you should try to do the same with their digital activities. Monitor what activities and applications your child might be accessing on their smartphones, tablets or computers so that you can ensure their safety in the digital space. You should also set up some rules for their online activity to keep them accessing websites and applications that they shouldn’t have access to.
2. Limit the use of technology and encourage playtime.
Part of parenting in the digital age is finding a way to balance your children’s time between the online and offline world. Allowing your child to spend hours sitting on a smartphone or tablet not only prevents them from developing certain skills that can only be learnt in the offline world, but it can also be extremely bad for their health. Several studies have linked sitting for long periods of time to diabetes and childhood obesity. Therefore, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that you set ‘reasonable limits’ on how long a child should spend on their digital devices everyday. They recommend that children and teens engage with entertainment media for no more than one or two hours per day, and that should be high-quality content. Encouraging your children to play without the use of digital aids is a great way in which to stimulate their creativity and other areas of their brain.
3. Declare technology-free times.
There are certain aspects of life where the use of smartphones, tablets, and laptops should be restricted. For example, use of any of the devices during mealtimes should be prohibited as it often distracts your children from bonding with you and each other.
According to researchers, the use of mobile phones before bedtime can also impact negatively on sleeping. Therefore, limiting the amount of time your children spend on their digital devices before bed can ensure that they get a better nights rest.
4. Don’t use technology to emotionally pacify your children.
While, you should encourage the use of technology for children as it helps with their development, you should not use it as a way to emotionally pacify your children. According to the AAP, using these devices as a means to quieten your child when they are misbehaving or bored is not always a good idea. If you continuously do this, they don’t learn the necessary skills to cope in these situations without the use of digital aids. Therefore, rather than use these technologies to soothe your child in times of distress or boredom, let them learn how to manage these situations on their own.
5. Live out these rules in your own life.
Children are influenced by what they see their parents doing. If a child sees their parents on their smartphones all the time, they more often than not, will mimic this behaviour. So, ensure that you are aware of how much time you are spending on your digital devices. After a long day at work, rather than going straight to your laptop, smart phone or television, spend some time playing with your children. This will encourage them to spend more time away from their digital devices also.
While smartphones, the Internet, and television have opened the door to a number of ways to help children learn and discover new skills, this environment can also be a dangerous one if parents do not monitor it. Ensure that you begin speaking to your children from a young age about how to be responsible in the online world, and encourage them to not forget about living in the offline world also.