If you are a parent today, chances are you can remember a time when we didn’t have cell phones, handheld computers, devices, gaming consoles, and everything else in between. Nowadays, these items are everywhere and, while technology has done many, many good things, it’s important that we remember to unplug once in a while.
One area of concern over the years has related to how much screen time very young children are getting. Since these are skills that they will likely need in the future when they enter school and the workforce, allowing children to have access to devices makes sense. How do we make they are not overdoing it?
1. Parental Controls
Do your own research and then decide on a daily “allowance” for your child. Can they have one hour (or two, or three) of free time on their devices? Once you have made a decision, look at implementing parental controls so that you don’t even have to think about it ever again. Your child will know how much time they have and their access will end, automatically, when that time is up.
Parental controls are also important when you consider content. Pornography, for example, is readily available and easy to find on today’s internet. Spend a few moments setting up some filters to prevent your child from accidentally (or intentionally) viewing offensive material.
2. Gaining Skills
As previously mentioned, the skills your child develops by using gadgets will likely come in handy as they pursue an education and begin working later in life. Why not seek out apps and websites that can encourage them to develop those transferable skills in a fun and interactive way? That way, they aren’t just having “mindless” screen time.
3. Preventing Overstimulation
We tend to think of it more when our children are babies but it is important to remember that viewing a screen can be overstimulating, even for adults. The speed at which everything moves, the brightness, the colors, and more can lead to jitteriness and interfere with sleep. Consider shutting down, at least, one hour before bedtime in order to allow the brain to relax.
4. Coping Strategies
It’s important that, as parents, we avoid giving our children a technology “pacifier” every time they show signs of boredom. Do you remember having to occupy yourself while your mom ran into her friend at the supermarket or during road trips? You read things. You imagined things. You sang songs and played games. Your children need to develop these coping strategies too.
5. Set a Good Example
If you barely look up from your phone when your child is trying to talk to you, they are likely to follow suit. Embrace technology in your home but also show your children how important it is to disconnect from the virtual world in favor of interacting with those around you. Look them in the eyes, pay attention when they are speaking, and enjoy downtime without the distractions. It might be easier said than done but it’s worth it!
Some parents take a very firm stance against allowing their children to use devices at a young age but many are finding a way to compromise. By encouraging your children to also get outside and be active or pursue other hobbies, you are teaching them to create balance in their life – a skill that will be beneficial for years to come.