Did you decide that your child would only play with battery-free toys and have limited television time?
Whether you realize it or not, your child has probably gotten plenty of exposure to technology, even with your good intentions and resolve. Our daily life is full of technology, which is why it’s important – now, more than ever- to think about when you should officially introduce your child to all the technology around.
Why It’s Important for Your Child to Use Technology Early On
We know how important play is for cognitive and emotional development.
But no matter how much we want to preserve and protect our little one’s childhood, we can’t deny it: our world is technology-driven. Our children have to play. But they also have to be successful.
And to thrive in this technological world, they have to learn how to navigate all the touch screens. It’s unavoidable and inevitable.
Take a Technology Inventory
What sort of gadgets do you have at home? Most people use televisions, but what about tablets, smartphones, computers, and the like?
When your child was born, you didn’t stop using these things. Therefore, unless you live in a technology-free home, your child has already witnessed you using iPhones, laptops, Kindles and more.
You’ve probably even let them swipe through your phone to keep them distracted and occupied.
But if you’re like most parents, you’ll soon discover that if you don’t put a limit on these items, your child will reach for the tablet instead of their building blocks. Sooner or later, you have to put a cap on exposure and usage.
So, step back and take a look at what your child is constantly exposed to at home. And ask yourself how much exposure you want your child to have.
Here are some guidelines to help you.
2 Years Old and Under? Avoid Technology
Instead of allowing your baby and toddler to watch TV shows and play with your tablet or smartphone, encourage them to play. Let them engage in unstructured play and read them stories.
80 percent of a child’s brain development takes place between birth and age three. How they spend these three years greatly impacts their development. So, try to keep digital devices off limits. Your child doesn’t need them yet!
Between 2 and 5 Years Old: Educational and Family Time Technology
One of the amazing advantages of digital technology is that we have immediate access to literally everything.
However, that’s why it’s important to protect your little one and ensure that they’re only exposed to appropriate content. Therefore, always be sure to adjust your digital device to “Kid Mode” or “Safe Mode”.
Even if you set your device on these safer modes, that doesn’t mean you can leave your child alone to play. Be there with them as they learn to use these devices. Guide them to select high-quality apps and programs.
Make it Educational
There’s no reason why children need to be engaged with social media outlets at such a young age. Therefore, if you choose to allow your child to play with digital devices, be sure it’s for educational purposes only.
Instead of zoning out in front of a screen, find programs that stimulate and challenge them intellectually.
By doing these things, you show your child how to use technological devices responsibly, and that by using them correctly, they become a wonderful and enriching tool.
How long should your child engage with technology? Try to limit their screen time to one hour per day. It might seem like very little but remember: they will spend hours in front of screens as they get older.
Make it About Family Time
One of the biggest drawbacks of digital devices is that it removes children from healthy, social interaction. To counteract this, use technology together with them. Whether it’s a video game, or a favorite app, or learning a language together, make this digital time family time.
This way, children will learn how to navigate technology without falling behind in social skills like communication, sharing, sportsmanship, and fairness.
Between the Ages of 6 and 12: School Exposure
Many schools are now fully equipped with tablets and computers for their students. It makes sense since we want our children to be competent and competitive in a world full of technology.
Since your child will be using devices without your supervision, it’s absolutely necessary that you impress upon them the importance of safety. Try to have conversations with them about the following concerns:
- Stranger Danger: While you don’t want to scare your children, you do need to let them know that some people are dishonest and even dangerous online. Unfortunately, not everyone can be trusted.
- Personal Privacy: Remind them to never share personal information, like age, name, mailing address and payment information, in chat rooms or anywhere else.
- Cyber Bullying: Just as children need to learn how to cope with bullying, we need to help them if they experience cyberbullying.
If possible, limit your child’s screen time to 1-2 hours per day, especially if they’re using digital devices frequently in school.
Gauge Your Own Technology Use
As a parent, you may concentrate on only limiting your child’s exposure to tablets, computers, and smartphones. But all your efforts may look silly to your child if you’re constantly using these devices.
It’s easy to think that adults are justified in using technology more than children. And for our professional careers, it can be necessary. But that’s not all we use them for.
For example, how much time do you spend scrolling through Instagram, Facebook, Tumblr, or Twitter? This sends a strong message to your child: digital technology is a replacement for other important activities like social interaction, reading, and enjoying other healthy recreational activities.
If you want your child to have a strong and healthy attitude toward technology, you need to assess your own approach to it.
Children want to use technology, but they need and want limits and expectations, too. As a parent, you can help your child develop a healthy relationship with all things digital and set him up for success.