How to Manage Your Children's Use of Technology
You know exactly how it goes. Before you have kids, you promise yourself that they will rarely watch TV and will spend most of their time reading, playing outside, and doing educational crafts. Then, once they get a little older and you get a lot less patient, they’re constantly watching Disney+ or playing Minecraft on the iPad. But hey, you'll watch Frozen 2 several times a day if it means you can have a little peace and quiet.
If technology is used sparingly in a responsible manner, it can be an educational and useful tool for kids, but it’s important to have clear guidelines and rules about usage.
What type of tech is best for children?
The technological devices that you purchase all depends on the age and maturity levels of your children. For elementary to middle school ages, it’s recommended that instead of having their own personal devices, children use family iPads and tablets. They're much easier to monitor screen time and content. This decision is entirely up to the caregiver, but it’s important to know all the information before making a decision.
When should you get your child a phone?
Of course, every child’s needs and situation are different. Plus, just because you’re giving your 13-year-old daughter a phone doesn't necessarily mean she should have full reign to download every social media app and FaceTime her friends. Some teenagers work a part-time job or participate in after-school sports, so a phone might be necessary to communicate with you, managers, and teammates.
Parenting experts recommend that you wait until your child is at least in high school before giving them a smartphone, which will allow their brains to become more fully developed so they can make better decisions with this new privilege. If you sit down and have a candid conversation about rules and expectations with the device, it can prevent problems that could be detrimental to their safety. Collaborate on the rules with your teen; they will be much more likely to follow them because they took part in the decision-making process.
Still nervous about giving your teen a smartphone? You might want to consider Gabb Wireless. It’s a basic phone (designed to look like a smartphone, so no teasing from classmates!) that can only call and text—without the social media, gaming apps, and internet capabilities. It’s a simple and safe way to keep in contact with your teen without all the distractions and time-wasters.
Screen time limits
Experts have a guide that will help you figure out how much non-educational screen time your kids should have, and it might be significantly less than you think.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children and teenagers should have no more than 2 hours of screen time, and infants under the age of 2 should have no screen time at all. Of course, this is difficult with technology being integrated into schools, and especially during online learning. Plus, sometimes you just need a break from the constant "Mom, Mom, Mom!” so you let the kids watch one too many episodes of Daniel Tiger.
Remember that no one is a perfect parent, especially when it comes to technology usage, so don’t feel discouraged. We all want the best for our children, but there are definitely some obstacles that make parenting even more difficult.
The first time you buy your child an electronic device can be daunting, but it doesn’t have to be. There are several parental controls that can limit what they view, what apps they can use, and how long they can spend on their device.
While most smartphones and tablets automatically come with parental settings, there are apps and devices that allow you to control their phone directly from your phone.
We highly recommend:
What is it? A plug-in device that connects to your internet and is controlled by an app on your phone. (Don’t worry about it getting unplugged by frustrated kids; it still works offline, too.)
What it can do: The Circle App can track screen time (and control it), block certain apps and websites, and set healthy time limits (say hello to homework times and designated bedtimes).
Monkey See, Monkey Do
Kids are always watching and mimicking our behavior, whether our habits are positive or negative. Do you watch TV during mealtimes? Are you texting while people are trying to hold a conversation with you? If you practice good technology etiquette, your children will likely follow suit.
In the busy world of on-demand streaming, it can be difficult to have meaningful conversations and quality family time without screens. Making a small effort each day to be present for your family will make an impact in helping your kids become present as well.