As Millennials decide to settle down and have kids, it is more important than ever to think about how we want to raise our children in an age of limitless technology. Making these choices early is important, or else you will find yourself ripping an iPad or phone out of your young child’s hands!
Parents should recognize the importance of technology in the world today – it is a source of knowledge, future career prospects, communication, and leisure. But on the flip side, technology also provides an addictive medium for kids to access adult content, troll or bully, and waste hours mindlessly.
So how can we teach our kids to own technology instead of being owned by it? Below are 5 tips for your consideration.
1. Time Limits
It is so easy to let your child watch endless amounts of media when they get home from school – or if they aren’t in school yet, it could be even more dangerous! No matter how much your child begs and screams, you have to be firm on tech time limits, or it quickly turns into “always”. Preparing your child with warnings and countdowns is recommended; we use our Echo / Alexa to keep tech timers, although some technology now has integrated timers for kids.
2. Tech as a Tool, not as a Toy
There are so many tech activities for your child to do from an early age. We recommend coding apps like Lightbot or ScratchJr starting as young as age 4. We can also use technology to watch videos on a specific topic, find music we like, look at photos, or to learn new topics on websites like Khan Academy.
Unfortunately, many kids these days view technology as a toy. This only increases the addictive nature of technology, because they get dopamine bursts from games and entertainment. If you want to raise a child with a healthy relationship with technology, I recommend finding a nice balance between using tech as a tool or a toy that works for your child.
3. Delay the Purchase
In my house growing up, I remember when we got the Internet. I was in 6th grade. Although I spent endless hours chatting with friends via AIM and downloading songs on Napster, I also remember having to get off the computer because of a phone call (56k dialup), sharing the one computer with my whole family, and having the computer in a shared bedroom.
These days, kids have technology all around them. It is inevitable that they will be exposed to it. However, I think we can safely delay the purchase of technology for kids that is their own. Instead, have them share a device with you or a sibling so that there is an automatic time buffer built in, and they will value their time more than if they get limitless time on “their” device.
4. Being Bored is Okay
For adults, it is way easier to say it’s okay to be bored than to actually be bored. Modern parents are as addicted to their technology as their kids are! So this point is both about allowing your child to be bored and also allowing yourself to be bored as well. Set the example for your child. Taking time away from technology allows you to regroup and think about priorities and what you want from life, instead of just running a non-stop rat race.
5. Remember Analog
As someone who teaches kids to code full time, it is tempting to jump into advanced programming languages like 3D games with my students. But lately, I have been taking a step back and reflecting on the early days of coding. The first computer programmers used punch cards to code complex algorithms, and the principles of coding are the same today as they were 60 years ago. So before you allow your child to dive in and play games on their iPad, maybe buy them something old-school, like the 8-bit Nintendo re-release or an old Atari off Ebay. Maybe teach them how to code one of those simple games. Help them to appreciate that those games aren’t lame, they are the technological stepping stones to the complex apps and games today.