With the technology continuously improving, it’s to be expected that it will be able to cater to every age group. It is meant to make life easier, but us humans sometimes have a hard time understanding the balance between leisure and comfort.
One of the common problems of parents is how to raise these kids in a technology-driven world healthily. How can you teach your child to use gadgets and media responsibly, but at the same time, let them be aware on how to use them to be competent in this era?
What’s the Recommended Gadget Usage Time?
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, children younger than 18 to 24 months should not be introduced to digital media yet. Yes, they can video chat if it’s necessary for a faraway parent. But even if they are older than 24 months, they still need to be supervised with screen usage.
Parents should limit their children’s screen time for just an hour when they reach the age where they can use digital media. This is for children ages 2 to 5, but make sure that what they’re also watching are educational videos. It’s also best if those videos are just re-teaching them what they’ve learned in the real world.
Does Your Child Has an Unhealthy Amount of Gadget Dependence
When your child is having gadget dependence and an unhealthy amount of screen time, you might notice that it’s harder to set limits on him/her. He/she usually throws intense tantrums, and can even have a noticeable behavioral change when they can’t access technology. In the long run, these behaviors can lead to health issues such as sleep interference and poor communication development.
What Can You Do?
Don’t Start Them Young on Technology. Instead, Encourage Other Activities
There will be times where more than we’d like to admit, we have to settle for gadgets to keep our children entertained. However, we can direct that energy and attention to healthier toys and other activities in the long run instead.
For example, my four-year-old son spends the majority of his weekends riding a scooter with his siblings. This physical activity is beneficial for him because he gets to strengthen his cardiovascular system and even burn some calories instead of being cooped up inside his room.
As you can see here, activities like this even help with coordination and balancing skills that are essential for young kids. And as a bonus, he already feels exhausted when he goes home afterward. Therefore, there’s no pent up energy that can make him feel frustrated if I ask for limited gadget time.
What I’m basically saying is that you can find activities and toys that can substitute for gadgets. When your child is not fully immersed in technology at a young age, it is also less likely for him/her to always look for the same kind of entertainment as he/she grows up.
Of course, it’s inevitable to get rid of gadgets completely. It’s also important that your child is knowledgeable in how to use them because they are necessary earlier in life. But when you’re introducing your little one to them, make sure that you also make it clear that fun and happiness is not limited to screens.
You want your child to be excited about other things such as reading books, play pretend, and playground visits. This way, you still satisfy your little one’s needs for stimulation and imagination without being entirely dependent on technology.
Just like what I’ve said earlier, our goal as parents is not to completely get rid of gadgets and technology. Instead, we just want our kids to practice healthy and responsible usage of these things. So starting at a very young age, make sure you are establishing boundaries to make your child understand these limitations.
Besides setting a time for how long your kids can use the TV, video games, tablet, computer, or phone, you can set boundaries in other areas. To give you a perspective, make your child fully aware that the gadget is not theirs alone. This gives them good practice for compassion and understanding, and they are less likely to respond harshly when you try to get the device.
You can also set the gadget in a way where it’s child-proof. This means that your child can’t accidentally delete important files or purchase something when using it. You can even keep the device half-charged and hide the charger to cut the usage time.
Monitor the Content They’re Exposed To
Another common part of gadgets and screen time is the content that kids can be potentially exposed to. They range from apps that allow them to talk to strangers, games that can depict negative behaviors, and influential videos that they might copy.
You can use a setting to further restrict your child’s access to these contents, and then talk to them when they mention these things. A child-appropriate talk is always a better approach rather than saying no without any explanation. As your child meets various people, he/she will eventually find out about these things. Therefore, the information and risks in these contents must come from a trustworthy source like you.
You can also prevent events that pose stranger danger, bullying, and privacy violations by obtaining the passwords of your child’s social apps. This way, you’ll have a better awareness of what’s happening to your child and what kind of people might influence him/her. You want your child to look at his/her family as a safety zone that he/she can always trust, so he/she won’t seek them in strangers.
Establish Techno-Free Zones and Schedules
Lastly, another trick we use in the house is setting areas where there are no gadgets allowed unless it’s necessary for homework and important things. This way, your child can’t hide unhealthy habits to you since they are always in sight.
You can also put the computer in the busy part of the house, and set the dining area as a gadget-free zone. Putting areas like this is not just beneficial in curbing your child’s need to be staring at a screen. When people aren’t hunching over their gadgets, they have more time to talk to each other and strengthen their bonds. As I said earlier, you want to give your child the attention and affection that he/she might otherwise seek from someone if the home doesn’t feel like one.