“In today’s era of technology, guiding children, not just in the real world but also in the virtual one, is parents’ duty.” according to Stuart Bienenstock of Stuart David Bienenstock Natural Playground Design. They must teach their kids how to use technology to benefit them and acquire skills and habits that will teach them how to use technology responsibly. Whether you have a 2-year-old at home who seems to understand the iPad better than you or a teenager that needs some freedom as well as control, you have come to the right place! This guide will show you how to make technology work for your children and limit kids’ tech use at every stage in their life.
Stuart Bienenstock’s Three Tips to Keep in Mind
The following parenting tips will help you create a healthy technological environment at home and allow you to establish some ground rules to maintain harmony:
1. Discuss Technology with Family
Important as well as day-to-day decisions are usually family discussions. You must have talked about who is responsible for vacuuming or washing the dishes or planning vacations. Just like that, the decision about using technology must also be taken after thoughtful family planning.
The first step is to set rules as a family. You need to set limits with your kids, so they start to learn self-control and when screen time is interfering too much with their school work or chores or any aspect of the rest of their lives. Your children will be less likely to argue with you about technology use if they play a role in establishing their limits.
A tried-and-tested way to become involved in your child’s tech experiences is to play or watch with them. Doing so will allow you to monitor the content they are being exposed to. It will also be an excellent way for you two to bond.
However, you must personalize when you limit kid’s tech use. What works for one kid won’t necessarily work for another. Their ages, needs, and personalities are essential factors in determining what works for them.
2. Create Balance
Technology can be very empowering for children of all ages. It can help them express their creativity and stay connected to others. However, many parents worry about the impact of too much screen time.
As with most situations, a balanced approach is needed. To strike this sweet balance, you should know that there’s no single recipe for success. The balance you will create for your family might seem different than your neighbor’s because each family is different, and there is a lot of variation in parenting styles and values.
You must take note if your kid complains that they are unhappy or bored without access to technology, throw tantrums or resist when you set limits or when their screen time interferes with school work, bedtime, or other essential things. Do not hesitate to revisit this topic. Your child’s involvement with technology grows with age, and it’s also difficult to predict what the digital world will look like a few years from now.
3. Be a Role Model for Your Kids
Children learn from their elders, and even your technology patterns will influence them. If you are on your phone all day or lounge around binge-watching shows, your child can learn from you! Hence, you must set boundaries for work time and family time. It would be best if you mainly stayed away from technology:
- When dropping children or picking them up from school
- When you come home from work
- During meals, including when dining out
- During outings, such as vacations and trips
If you practice what you preach, you can instill healthy habits in your children.
Limiting Tech Use for Babies (Under 2 Years)
Parents often resort to electronic devices to distract their kids or get them to stop crying. This is a huge problem because a child’s brain grows fastest in the first three years of their life, so this time is the most critical period for the development of emotional, linguistic, motor, and social skills. It is okay to introduce your children to technology, but it should be a tiny percentage of their time at this age.
Here are some tips for finding the right balance for your baby:
Limit kids’ tech usage to the bare minimum: Allow your child to video chat with a parent or relative who is far away.
Co-view and co-play: Instead of using technology as a babysitter, if you’re unable to tend to the baby, give the baby toys or books that will help them utilize their senses. “When using a tablet or phone, talk, read, sing or play with your children to nourish their brains.” according to Stuart Bienenstock Playgrounds.
Protect your devices: Too much technology exposure can be dangerous for your baby, but your baby can also be hazardous for your devices. The best protection is prevention so lock down your devices.
Limiting Tech Use for Preschoolers and Toddlers (2 to 5 Years)
Once your child reaches this age, you’ll notice their eagerness to learn about everything. Hence, it’ll be hard to keep electronic devices away. For children between the ages of 2 and 5, you should:
Make tech time bonding time: At this age, children learn social habits like sharing, helping, donating, and benefiting other people. Technology can help with this developmental stage when you co-play with them, taking turns, and exploring a game or digital book.
Choosing games and apps: Get into the habit of checking age ratings for digital content. You should check the IARC and app store ratings. Google, Microsoft, Nintendo, and many other major tech companies use IARC ratings when producing user content.
Limiting Tech Use for Young Kids (6 to 12 Years)
Kids will likely be using technology daily when they reach grade school. However, they will still turn to you for guidance. Hence, this is a vital time to reinforce appropriate technology usage. You must:
Set up child accounts: The built-in parental controls in Windows and macOS can help you set time limits and limit apps and web usage.
Encourage creativity: Technology has a lot to offer children. If your child likes to build things, you could try Osmo, which provides a tactile learning experience, or Scratch, developed by M.I.T., to encourage logical thinking via stories, games, and animations.
Ensure privacy and security: Teach kids that what goes online stays online and that they should never share sensitive information. Children who are used to talking about what they do online are more likely to tell someone if they are worried or upset.
Watch out for cyberbullying: Bullying becomes a potential issue for children once they’re in grade school. Do not just stand and watch if you see bullying, whether online or in real life. Stand up to the bully on behalf of the victim and support them.
If at this age, your child wants their own phone, you need to think about many things. Things you’ll want to consider before buying them phones:
- Do they take good care of their belongings?
- Will they follow your rules set for phone rules?
- Can they be trusted to send texts, photos, and videos responsibly?
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Limiting Tech Use for Teens (13 to 18 Years)
Teens need more independence and want to use their devices without you prying on them. You should move from strict monitoring to mentoring when teaching teens to use technology responsibly. Hence, you should:
Set rules: Create a phone contract that will establish the guidelines your teen should have in mind when he or she is online. Some rules to limit kids’ tech use might include:
- Never texting while driving
- Never sharing inappropriate photos or videos
- Always texting when arriving at or leaving from a friend’s house
Teach best practices: Once a teenager has a phone, they’ll be using it primarily as a social tool, so you must reinforce the positive aspects of that while warning them of the dangers.
Establish trust: You need to balance respect for your kids’ need for privacy while also ensuring they’re safe. Promise them you won’t listen in on phone conversations or check their emails unless you suspect something is wrong. In return, ask them to hand over their phone or login info any time you want to review their activity. This lets them know that you reserve the right to look out for them.
Steer them into productivity: If your child is interested, see if there are classes on programming, digital design, animation, or other tech-related subjects to help him or her benefit from technology.
Look out for tech addiction: There are two significant early warning signs you should look out for to check if your child has an unhealthy relationship with technology:
- You must realize when screens take up so much time that there is no time left for physical exercise or for spending time with people face-to-face.
- You should also note when children start feeling negative emotions after screen time because they feel rejected, bullied, or unhappy.
The key to healthy tech use is constant and open communication that will help your family reap the benefits of technology without experiencing too many adverse effects. Limit kids’ tech use but do not make them feel like they cannot trust you. Remember, you need to bring them on your side rather than make them think you are the enemy.
You also may be interested in Stuart Bienenstock and David Bienenstock.