How much tech is too much tech? Is my child safe on the internet? How old should children be before they’re allowed to use an iPad? To have their own iPhone?
Technology is a constant worry in the minds of us 21st Century parents and, well that’s not too surprising. New articles appear every day about how social media is brainwashing teenagers and how technology might have detrimental effects on children’s brain development. Like everything, problems are bound to occur when kids (and anyone else for that matter) overuse technology. By establishing boundaries and encouraging kids to play the old fashioned way, the problems entangled with technology may slowly fade away.
Or so we think. The truth is, the future of technology is pretty uncertain and relatively scary. Keeping up with this ever-changing phenomenon is hard, and its difficult to know how it will affect your family’s life. That being said, we are still in control.
When I was growing up, my parents convinced me that watching too much T.V. would give me square eyes. Nowadays, T.V. is the least of our troubles. With iPads, laptops and smartphones, who knows what shapes kids will morph into. The fact of the matter is, your child is going to pick up a tablet or a smartphone at some point. This much is inevitable. But, before you panic and introduce a screen embargo or force your child to live in a digital no man’s land, here are three easy steps that will help to keep your mind at ease.
#1 Introduce media free zones.
Introducing ‘media free zones’ such as the bedroom and dining room can help draw barriers to tech overuse. Encourage your child only to use their tablets or smartphones in certain areas. This way, it is less likely that technology will affect homework or bedtime. Granted, it may be more difficult when your child becomes a teen and their smartphones become an extension of themselves. But, having these boundaries set in place from a young age will encourage your child to use technology responsibly.
#2 Encourage other activities.
Yes, it’s an obvious one, but it’s really important and incredibly easy to forget. Technology can be divisive, so playing board games or doing something exciting outside can be a really great way to bring everyone back together in the here-and-now. Show your kids just how fun it is to do things in the real world by playing ball games, going for walks or just relaxing outside. These are really easy and fun ways for your kid (and for you) to disconnect.
#3 Lead by example.
Young children really do learn everything from you, the parent. To be a positive role model for our kids, it’s crucial to use technology in a way that reflects how you want your child to use it. This means less phones at the dinner table, less looking at your screen when your child is talking to you, oh, and when you do use technology, share what you are doing. Engaging your child in your life, that is, your tech life, will show them what’s on their screen doesn’t have to be a secret. Maybe if they are used to sharing technology with their parents, they’ll have less to hide on social media like FaceBook and Instagram as teenagers.
Let’s face it – we are living in a digital minefield. No one can be certain how technology is affecting our brain, behaviours and health, or even just how dangerous it really could be, but we do know that our habits affect our children’s habits. It’s not as hard as it may seem to draw healthy boundaries with tech for your children, starting with a few simple rules and leading by *positive* example.